Portland voters showed overwhelming support for a proposed a $119.9 million school budget based on preliminary results of a referendum Tuesday.

With 11 of the city’s 12 precincts reporting, 81 percent voted in support of the budget and 19 percent opposed it.

The preliminary vote was 3,551 to 845. However, nearly 18,000 absentee ballots had yet to be counted Tuesday night and Portland officials said they did not expect those results to be released until Wednesday.

The referendum follows unanimous approval of the budget by the City Council and school board after a budget process that saw substantial changes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget, which includes no tax increase, represents a 2.1 percent increase over the current $117.3 million budget, but is down from an original $122.3 million plan proposed in March prior to the pandemic.

Several rounds of revisions brought the budget down to a zero percent tax increase, though work still needs to be done to determine where some cuts will come from.


When the school board approved the budget May 26, it directed the superintendent to work with the district’s unions to find $400,000 in cuts from either cost-of-living pay increases or other line items.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said last week the district had met with all four unions and determined that the cuts need to be made in areas other than the cost of living increases. He said the administration will be working to make reductions consistent with the board’s directives and expects to present the results in August.

Though the budget doesn’t include all the new investments proposed in March, it stills includes the addition of two pre-kindergarten classrooms, the cost of which will largely be offset by state funding; investments in math and literacy curriculum; and a new autism spectrum disorder program for high school students.

It also eliminates four full-time Spanish language teaching positions in the fourth and fifth grades, three high school teaching positions, one custodial position at the central office and reduces funds for athletic programming by $140,000, or 6 percent.

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