SOUTH PORTLAND — Superintendent Ken Kunin proposed a $50 million school budget for 2018-19 on Monday that would dip into surplus funds to help cover an anticipated $823,000 reduction in state aid.

The school budget is $49.2 million for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Budgeted expenses for the 2018-19 school year are expected to increase $819,715 or 1.7 percent. The amount to be raised in taxes would jump from $41 million to $42.6 million – an increase of $1.6 million or 3.94 percent.

“Which is much higher than we would have liked,” Kunin said Tuesday in an email message to the school community. “It has been a very challenging budget to develop.”

The current budget added $893,000 to the tax levy – an increase of 2.22 percent.

Kunin presented his budget proposal to the Board of Education, which is scheduled to review the spending plan in detail during a series of budget workshops starting March 20.

The board will vote on the budget March 29 or April 2, depending on when it concludes deliberations. A school budget validation referendum would be held June 12.

The City Council advised the board to keep the school budget’s tax increase between 3 percent and 4 percent, Kunin said.

Non-tax revenues are expected to be down more than 10 percent overall, Kunin said, largely because the preliminary estimate for state aid in the fiscal year starting July 1 is $6.2 million, down from $7 million this year.

Kunin said he was “at a bit of a loss” to explain how a recent significant increase in state education funding has resulted in such a big reduction for South Portland.

“Part of the explanation is that our property valuation has increased faster than the state as a whole and our enrollment dipped slightly while the state as a whole was flat,” Kunin said, describing key factors in the state’s school funding formula.

South Portland’s valuation increased 3 percent, he said, compared to a 2 percent state average. The school district’s enrollment dropped from 3,031 students in 2016-17 to 2,983 students in 2017-18.

Enrollment is expected to rebound a bit in 2018-19 to 3,000, according to Kunin’s budget presentation.

To help cover the diminished state subsidy, the proposed budget would take $500,000 from an estimated $1.5 million fund balance.

The proposed budget includes a $1.2 million increase in contracted salaries and benefits, from $19.1 million currently to $20.3 million in the coming year, assuming a 5 percent increase in health insurance rates.

The proposal also calls for reassigning three teaching positions to an additional pre-kindergarten classroom, an additional classroom at Mahoney Middle School and an instructor for students who are learning to speak English.

Left unfilled would be more than $432,000 in staffing requests, including several teaching slots, an assistant athletic director’s position, a middle school resource officer and other coaching, advising or clerical positions.

The superintendent’s budget presentation and full budget proposal are posted on the school district’s budget page at www.spsd.org.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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