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Portland schools face loss of up to $5.8M

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Portland schools face loss of up to $5.8M

PORTLAND — The School Department will have to make up a $4.3 million loss in state funding for 2011, and could face another $1.5 million loss in additional state and federal funds.

Portland received $14.9 million in state general aid to education for 2010. The schools were originally allocated $17.7 million, but were told in the fall that $2.7 million of that would be curtailed.

Last week, the state Department of Education released preliminary funding amounts. Portland is set to receive $14.5 million in 2011. Of that, nearly $1 million must be dedicated toward debt service for the new Ocean Avenue school and the East End Community School.

Superintendent of Schools James Morse said the state numbers are actually a little better than the more than $6 million he had projected.

"It is the largest cut in the state, though, and it's pretty devastating," Morse said.

In addition to the projected general purpose aid cuts, Morse said he expects a nearly $1 million reduction in federal Medicaid funds.

Portland's state allocation also includes more than $45o,000 in funds from penalties paid by school systems that did not comply with school consolidation. But there is talk in Augusta of redistributing that money.

The School Department is currently working on its 2011 budget. Morse said he plans to present it to the School Committee on March 3.

In a memo posted on the School Department Web site, Morse said a $6 million cut in the budget for 2011 would mean eliminating 120 staff positions.

In May 2009, voters approved a $91.3 million school budget. Voters again this year will be asked to go to the polls and vote on a proposed budget. That vote is scheduled for May 11.

Under state law, this year voters will also decide whether they want to continue to vote annually on the school budget.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net