How many taxpayers felt galled after reading comments from Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana and Mayor Ethan Strimling, printed in the March 7 Portland Press Herald (Page B1)?

Botana was quoted as saying, “It’s a big ask. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” when presenting his case for a 9.7 percent jump in the school portion of the tax levy for Portland. Not to be eclipsed by Botana’s cavalier remarks, Strimling later commented that he’s “pleased the superintendent is being aggressive in his vision for what our schools need to be for our kids.”

Does his budget include the 2019 portion of the voter-approved $91 million to fix four schools? This increases property taxes 3 percent over a 26-year period to an average increase of $104 a year.

It won’t be the last time that you hear “Spend!”-related comments like these. According to the U.S. Census, median household income in 2016 dollars for Portland was $48,259. The Smartasset calculation for joint filers results in an estimated comparative federal income tax savings of $1,077 in 2018. In the view of some municipal officials this tax saving is a revenue stream permitting increased property taxes.

Botana and Strimling believe a taxpayer can afford the estimated $238 increase to their property taxes because they keep $839 of their $1,077 savings in fiscal 2019! This should sound alarming, particularly to retirees.

The 2016 American Community Survey for Portland details that 12.9 percent of its population is older than 64. Many of this group live on a fixed income. Social Security cost-of-living adjustments for the latest five years were 1.5, 1.7, 0, 0.3 and 2 percent, respectively; property tax increases were 2.9, 3.1, 3.0, 3.1 and 2.3 percent for the same period. Because your tax base compounds year to year, that’s an 18.3 percent increase in a five-year period!

Taxpayers are not cash cows, as some might think.

Steve Kirby


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