It was a quiet voting day Tuesday at the South Portland Community Center, as voters decided to approve the school department’s $54 million proposed 2021-2022 budget. City Clerk Emily Scully, seated at right, estimated a turnout of just 2.1% Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

South Portland voters approved the school department’s $54 million proposed budget for the 2021-2022 school year Tuesday as the city council held its final budget workshop to determine the size of the proposed municipal budget.

According to Town Clerk Emily Scully, 351 voters approved the, while 105 said no. The budget is up 1.34% over this year’s budget, adding 18 cents to the property tax rate, according to Superintendent Ken Kunin. For the owner of a $200,000 home, he said, the budget, if approved, would lead to a $36 increase to the tax bill.

Most of the budget increases this year are personnel-related and would have been less noticeable had the city not lost state educational funding. For the 2020-2021 year, Kunin said, the district received $6.7 million in funding, but the projected subsidy for the 2021-2022 year is $6.3 million, a total loss of $490,000.

At the polls Tuesday afternoon, Scully said it had been a quiet day.

“We really haven’t had anything of a line at all,” she said.

After voting had closed, Scully estimated the 456 residents who cast ballots represented 2.1% of the city’s nearly 22,000 registered voters. According to documents from the town, turnout for the referendum has been less than 10% for seven of the previous 10 years. Turnout was nearly 20% in 2011, coinciding with the special election for a seat in Maine Senate District 7, 25% in 2018, coinciding with the gubernatorial primary, and 33% in 2020, coinciding with the state primaries.

The final impact of the combined municipal/school budgets on the tax rate remains to be seen. The council is expected to hold its final workshop on the municipal budget on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., after The Forecaster’s deadline. According to Town Manager Scott Morelli’s memo to the council, the goal is, via cuts to the budget and possibly through additional funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to end up reducing the tax rate, rather than resulting in an increase.

The move is driven in part by the results, expected later this month, of a revaluation that is expected to drive up residential property values citywide.

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