Only three people spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed $103.6 million Portland School District budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

One speaker criticized the district for a budget that increases spending by just under 1 percent while student enrollment was declining, while the other two urged the board to prioritize spending on classroom teachers.

The school board will vote next Tuesday to pass on its budget recommendation to the City Council, and the council’s recommendation will go to voters in a referendum on May 10.

Overall, the $103.6 million budget is a 0.8 percent increase, or $826,227, over the current budget, which ends on June 30.

The increase in the school portion of Portland’s property tax rate would add $21 to an annual tax bill per $100,000 of value, or $63 for a $300,000 home. By comparison, last year’s final budget had a tax rate increase of 0.1 percent, or $1 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Earlier this year, district officials were surprised by an unexpected decrease in state funding – a $2.7 million drop from last year’s allocation. But Portland has recovered about $1.3 million since then, after Gov. Paul LePage and legislative leaders struck a compromise to extend tax breaks to businesses and add $15 million in education funding to the state budget.

Under the compromise agreement, the state allocation to Portland is now $15.6 million, or 15 percent of the total budget.

During a workshop after the public hearing, school board members acknowledged that the district, which serves about 6,850 students, would lose about 100 students next year. But that isn’t enough of a decrease to lower costs, since the decrease is spread out among various schools and grades.


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