Portland Public Schools is getting slightly more in state funding this year, while wealthier communities in the Greater Portland region saw decreases, according to state education funding figures released Tuesday.

The annual allocations, posted online by the Department of Education, spell out how much state money is sent to local school districts for the upcoming year, based on the state budget. District officials need the figures to determine their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning in July.

The state has a complicated school funding formula that considers several factors, including the value of a district’s property tax base, the percent of low-income students it serves and the district’s special education costs.

The current allocation is based on the state’s $7.1 billion two-year budget passed in July that included an extra $162 million for education, for a total of $1.1 billion in education funding.

The allocation also was affected by other changes in the budget, including more funding for special education students, more funding for pre-K programs, decreased funding for administration costs unless districts partnered in a regional service center and the state using the last two – not three – years of property valuation to assess a community’s ability to pay for education.

In the figures released Tuesday, Lewiston – one of the state’s biggest districts with some of the state’s neediest students – saw the biggest dollar increase in state aid, up almost $10 million to $61.7 million from $52.6 million last year. That reflects the district’s low property valuation and high service needs for its students.


Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said the district still may need to make cuts even though funding its is up.

“Our enrollment is still growing and Lewiston’s statewide valuation is stagnant while in many other communities it is growing,” Webster said in an email Tuesday night. “That, plus the overall increase in state funding generates the increase. We have so many needs in Lewiston that we will likely still be cutting desirable items, but at least this is a funding level that we can work with.”

Portland, the state’s largest district with one of the highest percentages of English language learners, saw a 3.4 percent increase in state funding, from $16.5 million to $17 million.

Sanford saw a 23 percent increase, from $27 million to $33.2 million, Scarborough saw a 28 percent increase from $2.1 million to $2.7 million, and Westbrook saw a 17.5 percent increase from $15.6 million to $18.3 million.

Cape Elizabeth, which never gets much in state funding, saw a 41 percent drop, from $2.1 million last year to $1.3 million this year. South Portland and Yarmouth both dropped almost 11 percent and Falmouth had an 8 percent drop in state funding.

Maine funds education through a state “essential programs and services” formula, which determines how much money is needed for each school district to provide a baseline education.


The formula also determines what percentage of that total amount the state will pay, and what percentage the local community will pay. For poorer communities, such as Lewiston, the state pays for 80 percent of the essential programs and services, while in Cape Elizabeth, the state only pays for 7.5 percent and requires the local community to pay for the rest.

Most districts’ school budgets, approved by local voters, are larger than the state’s assessment of how much essential programs and services should cost, and those communities pick up the additional funding locally.

In Portland last year, the $16.5 million the city received from the state represented roughly 16 percent of the district’s $104.8 million budget. In Scarborough, the $2.1 million the district received was about 4 percent of budget approved by voters. In Biddeford, the school system received $12.5 million in state funding, or about 35 percent of its $35.6 million budget last year.

This year’s state allocation figures were far less dramatic than last year at this time, when preliminary state figures indicated Scarborough would have a 40 percent decrease in its subsidy and Portland’s would drop by $2 million.

But the budget deal approved in July provided additional funds, stabilizing many district budgets.

As part of the budget deal, an agreement to provide the $162 million for schools, lawmakers eliminated a 3 percent tax surcharge on high-income households that voters approved in November. The surcharge was designed to increase state funding to 55 percent of the costs of education, a level also mandated by voters in 2004, but which the Legislature has never approved.


State DOE officials noted that this year the state’s share has reached 53 percent, up from 52 percent last year.

The state budget also requires that, out of the $162 million in extra funding for schools, half of the $114 million earmarked for 2018-19 allocations must be used for tax relief.

It was unclear Tuesday how that 50 percent mandate for tax relief would be implemented by districts. A spokeswoman for the department said officials would have more detailed information about the allocations on Wednesday.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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