Most greater Portland schools likely to see more state funding

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Funding formula changes appear not to have large impact

AUGUSTA — Contrary to some projections, most schools in greater Portland will receive increased state funding next year if estimates released last week become official.

The Maine Department of Education has released its preliminary general purpose aid numbers for the 2012-13 school year, utilizing a new funding formula that was expected to increase funding for rural schools and decrease funding for urban schools.

Democrats in the state Legislature had initially estimated schools in greater Portland would see widespread losses in state aid. But if the preliminary numbers are any indication, only a few local schools will take hits.

This is largely due to an increase of $19 million in the amount of general purpose aid included in the state budget – up to $914 million, according to DOE spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

While this is still not as much as the state spent on GPA in 2008, he said it partially makes up for the loss of federal stimulus funds, which ran out last year.

Despite the increase, towns where property valuation were higher than the state’s overall 2 percent loss, could see their GPA drop.

Cape Elizabeth is expected to see a $245,000 reduction in funding, a 10.6 percent loss over last year’s nearly $2.3 million subsidy. Scarborough will also see a reduction, but of only $2,300, an almost negligible 0.04 percentage drop from last year’s $4.7 million subsidy.

Chebeague Island may see a drop of $3,800, a 2.6 percent reduction.

Other districts will likely see increases in state aid. Portland is estimated to see a nearly $1.2 million increase; South Portland, nearly $623,000, and RSU 1, which covers the towns of Bath, West Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich, is estimated to see a $904,000 increase.

Some districts may see more modest increases. SAD 75, which includes Harpswell, Topsham, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham, could see a $408,000 increase; Brunswick, $244,000; SAD 51, which covers Cumberland and North Yarmouth, $118,000, and Yarmouth, $68,000.

While at first glance, Falmouth’s projected increase of $1.6 million seems to top the list of increases, the district’s finance director, Dan O’Shea, said the increase is attributed to a new elementary school that opened this year, paid for by state funds.

“These figures don’t take into account any current-year enrollment changes – which will show increases over last year and should mean additional funds – or other adjustments, so we need to look at it with caution,” O’Shea said.

The state’s share of interest on the bond for the $37.7 million Falmouth Elementary School is estimated at $1.6 million.

“So essentially, (it means) flat funding for Falmouth with that factor removed,” O’Shea said.

This is only the second year the DOE has released preliminary estimates aimed at assisting schools in the budget process. The numbers could change before they are finalized, depending largely on enrollment and whether the Legislature makes additional changes to the funding formula.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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