Property taxes would go up 4.2% under South Portland’s final municipal and school budget proposal of $126.7 million for the new fiscal year.

The combined proposal is roughly 1% less than this year’s budget, the result of a decrease of nearly $8.4 million on the city’s end because of cuts to the general assistance fund and the elimination of vacant positions.

The tax rate increases 65 cents, from $15.56 per $1,000 of assessed value to $16.21. The owner of a home assessed at $296,000, which is the median value of a house in South Portland, would pay about $193 more in taxes this year.

The municipal portion of the proposed budget is lower than the current year’s primarily because the city was able to slash nearly $10 million from its general assistance fund, a 76.4% reduction, City Manager Scott Morelli told The Forecaster this week. That extra funding is no longer needed because the city won’t be paying some local hotels to operate as homeless shelters, which started during the pandemic. Hotels are required to cease those operations by June 30.

The city also cut vacant full-time and part-time positions it had been planning to fill. On average, the city adds three to four jobs per year, but Morelli said no new positions were included in the new budget.

Budget drivers on the municipal side include inflation, as “the cost of everything has gone up” from fuel and electricity to general supplies, Morelli said, and a minimum of a 4% wage increase for city employees.


Under the $126,609,577 total budget, the city’s proposed capital plan of $12.6 million will dedicate nearly $2.3 million to improvements on Cottage Road, nearly $1 million toward a new fire truck, and $500,000 to a planned Portland Harbor dredging project.

It also designates a combined $2.7 million for multi-use paths, one on Westbrook Street, which is especially important with the new consolidated middle school opening in the fall, Morelli said, and another on Lincoln Street.

$66 million school budget 

Superintendent Tim Matheney presented an updated school budget at Tuesday’s City Council workshop of $66 million, which calls for $50.3 million to be paid for by taxpayers and results in a 45-cent increase to the tax rate.

In March, the taxpayer’s share of the school budget came in $1 million higher, with a tax increase of 69 cents, but the school department revised the budget after receiving an additional $1.5 million in state funding and learning that an expected increase in health insurance for employees did not materialize.

“We have a, believe it or not, 0% increase in our health insurance costs,” Matheney said. “I figure it only happens once in the lifetime of a superintendent, and this is it.”


The school budget includes $688,300 toward the new middle school, but that is “the largest amount the community will pay” over the course of the local bond, Matheney said. The state’s share of the bill this year will be over $4.7 million.

“For the facility we’re getting, it’s an incredible bargain,” Matheney said.

The school department will add a slew of positions this year, including a director of multilingual programs and teachers for that program, bus drivers, ed techs, social workers and pre-K teachers.

“Our waitlist during this school year has been over 100 families for pre-K,” Matheny said, noting that the investments in this year’s budget will “meet some of that need.”

The City Council will continue to have public discussions on the combined city and school budget on April 25 and May 23. It will vote on the school budget May 16 before it goes to voters June 13. On June 20, the council will vote whether to approve the city’s portion of the budget.

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