South Portland’s $66.1 million school budget, with a 4.6% property tax increase, will be up for a city-wide vote next month.

If passed by voters, the school tax rate would increase by 45 cents, from $9.78 to $10.23 per $1,000 assessed value. The owner of a home assessed at $400,000 would pay an estimated $4,092 in school taxes in the new fiscal year, $180 more than this year. That increase will be on top of any property tax increase resulting from the city budget, which is still being developed.

A major driver in the school budget’s $6.4 million increase over this year is a payment of about $2.6 million for the new middle school, Superintendent Tim Matheney said Wednesday. That payment will be the district’s highest for the $69 million project, he said.

The state is paying for 86% of the new school’s costs.

“For South Portland to get an amazing state-of-the-art middle school and pay for only about 14% of that $69 million project is just amazing,” Matheney said.

The new school has resulted in other budget increases, however, particularly to pay for more bus drivers.


“We will not have a middle school on the east side and the west side of town, we’ll just have one middle school on the west side of town,” Matheney said. “That means we have to transport more students.”

South Portland schools must also keep up with a big jump in the number of students for whom English is not their first language.

“Our student population has increased by about 170 students since the fall of 2021, and many of the students had additional needs to support,” Matheney said. “We have significantly ramped up our staffing to support our multilingual learners.”

The new budget covers hiring a director for multilingual learning and multilingual teachers. Mental health services were also a priority and multiple social workers will be hired.

The school department initially expected a 9.5% increase in health benefit costs, but those costs came in flat for the new year.

“It ended up coming in at zero percent and, as a result, we reduced taxpayer responsibility in our budget for (health care costs),” Matheney said. “We returned all that saving back to taxpayers.”

The City Council unanimously approved the school budget May 16. Voters will have the final say on it at the validation referendum June 13.

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