South Portland property owners will see their taxes go up 5.85% under the proposed $115.6 million budget released this week.

The combined city and school budget is up $9.2 million, or 9.4%, over this year’s total spending plan. Nearly $48 million of the proposed budget is municipal, while $59.7 million is allocated for schools.

Nearly $76.5 million of the budget will be funded by taxes, with $39.5 million coming from revenues.

“For every dollar we collect in taxes, 63 cents goes to the schools, 32 cents goes to the municipal government, 6 cents goes to county government,” City Manager Scott Morelli said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Under the proposal, the new property tax rate will be $15.56 per $1,000 assessed value, an 86 cent increase over this year’s rate. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $6,224 in property tax, $344 more than this year.

Salaries, overtime, pension health benefits and other personnel costs account for $29.5 million, or 67.6%, of the municipal portion of the budget, a 9.2% increase.


“Costs for gas and construction materials and all kinds of different things are increasing,” Morelli said at the meeting. “But so is the cost to attract and retain the best possible public servants that we can get so we are not losing them to other municipalities or the private sector.”

An additional $6.9 million in the city portion of the budget is for sewer user funds, a 6.3% increase from last year, and roughly $951,000 for special revenue funds, such as the municipal golf course, SPCTV and general economic development. Neither impact the tax rate, according to Morelli.

The city’s capital improvement program calls for $9.8 million, which will be funded through revenues, reserves and grants and will not affect the tax rate, Morelli said.

Roughly $5.3 million will go toward general government projects, 43% of which will be used for a new community broadband network. Another $2.1 million will go to environmental protection projects, such as the $270,000 “Electrify Everything” program and $200,000 for electric vehicle charging stations.

Another $1.1 million will go to public safety improvements, including a new pumper truck for the fire department; $553,000 to cultural and recreational facilities; and $237,000 to parks and open spaces.



Much of the proposed school budget focuses on addressing the needs of South Portland schools’ growing and changing student population.

On Oct. 1 there were 2,887 students attending South Portland schools, but that is changing by the day,  Superintendent Tim Matheney said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Yesterday, I checked it, and it was 3,094,” Matheney said. “Today, just to do what I do as a superintendent, I checked it again. And it had increased, in one day, by five more students.”

Much of the increase includes multilingual students and students who are at risk of homelessness or are already without a permanent residence.

The number of multilingual students in the district has increased by 70% since the 2019-20 school year, Matheney said, and roughly one in five South Portland students are multilingual learners.

South Portland has also seen a huge spike in housing-vulnerable students, from 113 last school year to 350 this year.  


“South Portland student enrollment accounts for 1.6% of the students in the state of Maine,” Matheney said. “And yet, we educate, and as trends continue that we’ve seen this month, we are educating about 20% of the state’s housing-vulnerable students.”

The budget, Matheney said, will help the city’s school department fill the needs of its new students by hiring new personnel, such as two special education teachers, two English learning teachers and four special education ed techs.

Roughly 80% of the school’s portion of the budget is for employee compensation, he said, and for retaining current personnel and acknowledging their efforts.

“These are the people who have been on the frontlines for two full years of changes and challenges that the pandemic has forced for children and families,” Board of Education Chairperson Elyse Tipton said.

The school’s portion of the budget also accounts for a 14% decrease in state subsidies, from $8.87 million last year to $7.59 million this year.

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