Again, Portland Public Schools are facing increased costs and reduced state funding. Again, we are told that we can either raise property taxes or make cuts – a zero-sum game that pits parents and children against homeowners and retirees.

One side rightly demands investment in public education but cavalierly claims that taxpayers can afford to pay more. The other decries their ever-increasing tax bills and demands draconian cuts and school consolidation.

Unfortunately, neither approach will solve the long-term problem. If we rely almost exclusively on property taxes for revenue, we will have this same toxic battle every year.

The only way out is to find alternative revenue sources so that needs can be met without overly burdening homeowners. This is not impossible, but requires creativity and political will. A few ideas:

* The city should re-examine its fees and fines, so that fees adequately pay for services and fines are properly collected. For example, it was recently reported in the Press Herald that the city has chosen not to issue fines for thousands of unregistered rental properties, leaving over $1 million in fines uncollected.

* One-fifth of Portland’s property valuation is owned by nonprofits like Maine Medical Center, which pay no taxes but still use city services. The city plans to ask for monetary contributions from these nonprofits, but our councilors should demand that this be accelerated and broadened.

* Our city manager, councilors and mayor should work harder with our representatives in Augusta to secure more school funding for Maine’s most economically important city, and to pass legislation allowing a local lodging tax that would bring in millions from our thriving tourism industry.

We lurch from budget crisis to budget crisis with few options beyond raising taxes and making cuts. We must find alternative revenue sources – otherwise, we will keep having “deja vu all over again.”

Joey Brunelle

Portland