Only two people spoke at a public hearing Tuesday night for Portland’s pared-down $104.8 million school budget.

Resident Steven Scharf urged deeper cuts, while Will Kessler said school officials should consider adding to the budget in the face of “clear need.”

“Don’t be shy about pushing back,” Kessler said, referring to city officials asking the superintendent to make cuts to lower the tax impact.

The $104.8 million budget for the year starting July 1 has a 2.5 percent tax increase, the rate requested by the City Council’s finance committee. It is the third version of the budget for Superintendent Xavier Botana, who was asked to cut it twice to get the tax impact down to 2.5 percent.

The Board of Education will discuss the budget at a workshop on Thursday and vote on it next Tuesday. It will then go to the City Council before it goes to voters for approval.

Botana and board finance committee members have said they regretted having to remove about $400,000 in funding for new programs that were part of the school board’s long-term comprehensive plan to improve the district.

Several factors squeezed the budget. Expenditures are up 4.5 percent from the current budget, 80 percent of that due to a $3.8 million increase in salary and benefits required by contract. At the same time, Portland’s state allocation is down $2 million from this year, to $13.5 million, under Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed budget, which is still being debated by the Legislature.

The budget presumes the district will get an additional $1 million in state funds, however.


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