South Portland’s proposed $122.8 million municipal and school budget is up 4.9% over this year and comes with a 6.1% increase in property taxes.

The municipal side of the budget is responsible for 4.3% of the overall tax increase for the new fiscal year due in large part to an accounting error, announced in January, that resulted in a $4 million budget shortfall this year.

“There was a double counting of certain revenues so that led to an artificially lower tax rate,” City Manager Scott Morelli told the City Council Tuesday. Property owners got an unintended tax break that needs to be made up for in the new fiscal year.

“We apologize for that and hope to move forward and not have a repeat of this incident,” Morelli said.

Under the proposal, the owner of a $400,00o home would see a $344 increase in their tax bill to $6,000, up from $5,656 this year.

With the shortfall having a hefty impact, the municipal government opted to forgo many of its wants, according to Morelli. City departments requested 14 new positions, he said, but only two are included in the budget proposal, for example.


The proposed $49.9 million municipal budget calls for a 3% increase in personnel costs and includes $320,000 for pedestrian improvements along Broadway.

Nearly $2 million would be invested into transportation, such as for two new buses and a Transit Stop Access Project. However, the vast majority of those expenses are offset by federal and state funding.

Sewer funds account for $7.9 million of the budget, a $150,000 increase from this year.

The proposed school budget rings in at $52.9 million, a 3.8% increase over this year’s.

Roughly 80% of the school’s budget goes toward personnel, Superintendent Tim Matheney said.

The school department has finished negotiating three of four collective bargaining agreements with an expected 4% increase in wages. Healthcare costs for staff are up 3%, which Matheny said is relatively low. Healthcare costs did not rise for the current year’s budget, but that was an oddity, he said.


Since 2018 the number of homeless or housing-vulnerable students in the school district has risen from 37 to 297 this school year. The number of multilingual students has increased 88%; students of color, 44%; and special education students, 19%, Matheney said.

Meanwhile, enrollment is just 36 students higher than it was at the beginning of the 2018 school year, he said.

“All of this is illustrative of a much more diverse district than we had in 2018. We are a better district because of it, we are educating students in a school district that looks a lot more like the world than most of the state of Maine,” he said. “We’re excited about this diversity, but it does mean we need to transform ourselves and we are very actively in that process, and I would argue we’re doing very well at it.”

The school department’s budget includes a number of new staff positions with that in mind, Matheney said, including three teaching positions for social and emotional learning, two teachers at Skillin Elementary, an added social worker and a multilingual specialist.

Matheney said the district currently has two multilingual specialists, both of whom speak multiple foreign languages, and “they’re deeply valued positions.”

Budget workshops will be held on April 9 and 23 ahead of a public hearing on the municipal budget on May 7, when the City Council also is expected to send the school budget to the June 11 ballot.

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