Portland voters overwhelmingly approved a new education budget Tuesday for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The proposed budget passed with 78 percent of the vote, a total of 3,148 votes, to 22 percent of votes in opposition.

The city’s $104.8 million overall school budget represents a 1.2 percent increase from the $103.6 million budget for the current school year. The total is higher than the referendum amount because it includes grant and fee-based funding for programs such as adult education and food service.

About 12 percent of Portland’s registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, based on preliminary reports

Like school districts across the state, Portlanders decided on the school budget without knowing how much state funding will actually flow to the city in the coming year. The Maine Legislature is not expected to settle those issues or the rest of the two-year state budget until the end of the month.

In addition to approving the core portion of the school budget, voters also easily approved a second question seeking authorization for the school board, with City Council approval, to spend any additional state money by adding it to school programs, increasing the reserve fund or using it to reduce taxes. That question passed with 84 percent of the vote.


The budget approved by voters presumes that the district will get an additional $1 million in state funds. However, if the extra million is not allocated, the district will have to make cuts.

Portland’s school budget will result in a 2.75 percent increase in the education portion of property taxes, or 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That would add an estimated $70 to the tax bill of a home valued at $250,000.

When combined with the municipal budget approved by the City Council, the overall tax rate will go up 54 cents per $1,000 of property value, or $135 on the tax bill of $250,000 home.

The budget approved by voters Tuesday was the third version of the budget for Superintendent Xavier Botana, who was asked to cut it to lower the tax impact.

The original $107 million budget proposal would have increased the taxes needed to support education by 6.5 percent. It included funding for several new programs the board supported as part of its comprehensive plan. Botana cut the funding for those new programs, which included efforts to help raise math scores and assimilate new Mainers, and he trimmed sports and supply budgets and cut a handful of teaching and ed tech positions.

Several board members have said they want any additional state money to go toward restoring those cuts first.

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 estimated state allocation is down $2 million from this year, to $13.5 million.

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