School officials in Portland are getting back to work this week to figure out what to do with an additional $2.7 million in state funding that emerged from the final state budget deal.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Xavier Botana said they were starting by meeting with both school board and City Council finance chairs to draw up initial recommendations

“We want to start from that common understanding,” said Botana, who had to rewrite his proposed budget several times at the request of city officials and board members to lower the tax impact. “That’s our first step.”

The final state budget included an extra $162 million for education over two years. That means Portland’s school district received an increase in state funding for the upcoming year, bringing its allocation to $16.2 million. Portland school officials had anticipated a $2.5 million decrease – to $13.5 million – for 2017-18.

But the final budget deal also included a loss of funding for school-based health centers, which get grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. The state contract covered $191,000 of the $330,000 budget for health centers at Portland, Casco Bay and Deering high schools, and at King Middle School.

School board member Sarah Thompson said her priority for any additional revenue would be to continue providing health services.


“I’ll have a hard time adding anything new until we have health care for the students,” she said. “That’s a big one for me.”

The direct cuts to the health centers, which provide basic medical care and referrals for students who are unlikely to have other access to a doctor, are the result of the final state budget redirecting $10 million over two years from the Fund for a Healthy Maine to maintain reimbursement rates for primary care physicians under MaineCare, the state’s version of the federal Medicaid program.

Botana and other board members did not say Tuesday night whether they had any priorities for what to do with the additional revenue. Because the district based its existing budget on getting an additional $1 million in state funding, and because of a reduction in some other funds, the actual amount of additional revenue to be allocated is $1.7 million, said Alicia Gardiner, finance chief for Portland’s schools.

She told the board that the options for spending the extra money included tax relief and restoring cuts made in the first rounds of the Portland budget.

Botana noted that a budget provision that would have required half the extra education money to be dedicated to tax relief did not apply to Portland this year, since voters authorized the district to spend additional funds.

“But that doesn’t mean we are not doing tax relief, it’s just technically we’re not required to do it,” he told the board.


Botana said the staff would present its recommendations to the finance committee on Aug. 8, with a first read and full school board workshop on Aug. 15. The recommendation will then go to the City Council in September.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

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