PORTLAND — Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana is proposing a spending increase of more than $7.2 million for fiscal year 2020.

The total budget, which Botana was scheduled to unveil during a School Board meeting Tuesday, after The Forecaster’s deadline, is nearly $117.8 million, which represents a 6.5 percent increase in spending.

In all, Botana projects the budget as proposed could add 60 cents per $1,000 of valuation to the current tax rate of $22.48.

The School Board and City Council finance committees are scheduled to meet in a joint session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, to go over the school budget. A public hearing on school spending will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 2. Both meetings will be held at City Hall.

Budget drivers include a plan to expand pre-kindergarten by 32 seats during the upcoming academic year, which is expected to cost $1.3 million. Overall, the School Board hopes to add 140 new pre-K seats in the next five years, at a total cost of about $3 million.

In addition, Botana is asking for a series of new hires, including several new elementary school teachers, new English language learner teachers and new social workers, among other positions.

Specific details about why these new positions are necessary were not available at press time, but in a recent press release the School Department said one of its priorities was meeting the behavioral needs of students.

While the School Board created a commission to study the district’s enrollment and facilities needs, that group has recently concluded its work without making any specific recommendations for cost savings.

The School Department has also said it’s expecting more in state aid to education under Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed budget, which is still being debated by the Legislature.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

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