The Portland Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to trim $450,000 from next year’s proposed budget, clearing the way for a June 11 budget referendum.

The city’s education budget now stands at $117.4 million, an increase of 6.2 percent, or $6.8 million, over the current budget. It’s projected to increase the school’s portion of the tax rate by 55 cents, or 4.9 percent. That would add about $132 to the annual property tax bill on a $240,000 home.

The board was ordered to reduce its proposed budget by the City Council.

The most difficult decision by the board was to delay implementation of the Breathe program for high schoolers, which would provide additional staffing to support high school students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Delaying the hiring of a social worker and four ed techs to be split between Portland and Deering high schools reduced the budget increase by $158,000.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said the program remains a priority and that he will look for ways to implement all or some of the program next year.

“We’re talking about postponing it to next year, but it might be we’re postponing it to January if we can find the funds to do that,” Botana said. “As we start the school year, there is the potential to find savings.”

Other budget reductions made by the board were: $48,000 requested for emergency radios, which may be bought with grant funding; $24,000 requested for new school furniture; $46,000 to purchase new Macbooks for kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, who may get Chromebooks instead; $46,000 from the school board’s contingency fund, leaving $111,000 for the coming year; and $50,000 from the central office contingency fund.

The district also increased its projections for MaineCare reimbursements from 75 percent to 80 percent of eligible costs, adding $61,000 in revenue.

The education budget still needs to be approved by city voters for it to take effect July 1. The budget validation referendum is scheduled for June 11.

Councilors early Tuesday voted 8-1 to approve a $206.3 million municipal budget and a $117.4 million school budget. The year-over-year increase of the municipal budget was 4.6 percent, or $9 million. And the municipal budget increased taxes by 2.5 percent.

The property tax increase of the combined budgets is projected to be 3.7 percent, raising the mill rate from $22.48 to $23.31 and adding about $199 to the tax bill of a home valued at $240,000.



Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.