After a contentious debate this spring between school and city officials over education spending in Portland, city voters overwhelmingly approved a $110.6 million school budget Tuesday.

With all precincts reporting, the vote was 10,992 in favor, or 78 percent, to 3,120 opposed, or 22 percent.

Of the $110.6 million total, the state provides $13.7 million and the rest is raised locally.

Superintendent Xavier Botana issued a statement late Tuesday thanking voters and acknowledging the struggle to adopt a budget this year.

“The budget is a responsible one approved by both the Portland Board of Public Education and the City Council in a very challenging budget year, in which we had to grapple with a drastic reduction in state education aid and rising costs,” he said. “Thanks to the Portland community’s consistent support for our schools, we can now move forward and focus on the important work of preparing for the coming school year.”

Botana also said the school board is “working on a resolution to engage the City Council and Portland legislative delegation in exploring education funding reforms to better support the school budget next year.”


The school budget process was particularly controversial this year, after the district received less money than expected from the state, prompting the superintendent to initially request a $113.4 million budget, which would have required a nearly 10 percent increase in the schools’ portion of the taxes. The school board reduced that request to about $112 million, then the council ordered additional cuts of $1.2 million.

The final budget is about $5 million more than last year’s budget.

Among the cuts approved by the school board to meet the council’s financial mark: eliminating three elementary school teachers – a first-grade teacher at Hall and a second-grade teacher each at Lyseth and Reiche; eliminating three electives teacher positions in the middle schools; canceling two days of teacher training; and eliminating two school days.

Last month, the Portland City Council passed a $360 million budget that includes the $110.6 million school budget.

The combined city and school budgets are expected to increase property taxes by 3.8 percent, from $21.65 per $1,000 of assessed value to $22.48. That would add about $196.80 to the annual tax bill of a home assessed at $240,000.

Portland voters have always approved the school budget in previous years, but this is the first time it has been included in a primary ballot. That is expected to increase turnout, and could affect the school budget vote.


The conflict in Portland reflected similar struggles in many suburban districts that experienced similar declines in state education funding. The budgets drew criticism from taxpayers and fueled tensions between school and municipal officials in Gorham, Cumberland and other southern Maine communities.

This story will be updated.

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

Twitter: noelinmaine

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