Portland school officials are recommending the district use the bulk of $1.7 million in extra state funds to create a $1 million reserve fund that will ease the tax burden.

The remainder should be spent on paying for $250,000 in immediate capital improvements and restoring programs cut during the budget negotiations, Superintendent Xavier Botana told the school board finance committee Tuesday night.

Portland voters passed a $104.8 million budget in April, but the district got the extra money after lawmakers agreed to add $162 million to education spending to break a budget impasse. Half of the extra money – the state is distributing $48 million in 2017-18 and $114 million in 2018-19 – must be used for tax relief. The only exception is in the first year, if voters stipulate how any extra state funds should be spent.

That happened in Portland, but Botana said the district wanted to honor the intent of the Legislature. Creating a reserve fund, he said, will ease the tax burden because it means borrowing less down the line for, say, capital projects that would otherwise be part of the city’s capital improvement project list.

With the remaining funds, the district would use:

$100,000 for mentoring programs, including the Make it Happen program;

$150,000 for a New Arrival Center, to help non-English speaking immigrants adjust to school;

$15,000 for testing costs associated with a new seal of bi-literacy for graduates;

$95,000 to restore school allocation cuts for items like supplies;

$100,000 to replace state funding eliminated in the final budget, for training teachers in new proficiency based education requirements.

Botana noted that almost all of the money will be used on one-time expenditures because the extra state funding is only available for the next two years.

“We really don’t want to create a cliff in 2020 that we’d fall off of,” said Alicia Gardner, the district’s executive director of budget and finance. She added that because of the additional funding, the district does not expect to need any tax increase next year.

She said the district expects to get about $5 million in extra state funding next year under the budget deal.

The district recommendation will be discussed by the full board and city finance committee members before going to a school board public hearing and vote. It will also need to be approved by the City Council, likely in early November.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine