PORTLAND — Combined with an anticipated $2.7 million loss in state subsidy, the Portland Board of Education vetted a school budget Tuesday night that would bring a 4.5 percent increase in property taxes, or an increase of $46 per $100,000 of valuation.

The Portland Board of Education voted unanimously March 7 to pass on the proposed $103.7 million fiscal year 2017 school budget to the Finance Committee.

An expected 13.4 percent decrease in state aid means the average single family household in Portland, which is valued at about $200,000, would see an annual increase of about $104 in taxes.

The budget being proposed by Superintendent Jeanne Crocker includes an increase of $948,000 from the current budget.

“With our limited options for revenue generation, this directly impacts the amount of tax dollars that will be needed to support our current education programming and services,” Crocker wrote in her budget plan.

The overall revenue increase is about 1 percent, a figure that Chief Financial Officer Ellen Sanborn called “pretty phenomenal” at the March 8 meeting, because it is so low.

Additions to district schools and programming next year in the proposed budget include another pre-K class. With the addition of another class, the district would be able to serve 123 students, which allows the district to get a little bit closer to “universal pre-K,” Dr. Becky Foley, chief financial officer, said Tuesday.

The budget also includes adding transition specialists at the Reiche School and the East End Community School, specifically to aid students and families who are dealing with homelessness, Crocker said.

“We are finding that at both of these schools, there is an amazing, ongoing level of families going in and leaving, (and) needing extra support in many ways because of their status as homeless,” Crocker said at the meeting.

Despite the anticipated $2.7 million reduction in state aid, in order to be fiscally responsible, Crocker said the cuts made in the budget were “very strategic ones that minimize the negative impact on teaching and learning,” according to a press release following the meeting from Tess Nacelewicz, communications coordinator for the district.

“This budget is about more than just the bottom line. It represents
the community’s hopes and dreams about the future of our children and
also the future of our city, because Portland’s youth are its future
leaders, job creators and workforce,” Crocker said.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who attended the Tuesday meeting, said he “commended” bring forward a budget “that does not sacrifice our children.”

The Finance Committee will review the proposed budget at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at Lincoln Middle School, before it is again vetted by the School Board at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 15 in a workshop at King Middle School.

The proposed budget is expected to go before voters in a referendum Tuesday, May 10.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

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