Portland councilors to begin budget discussions

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PORTLAND — Budget season is beginning, with the City Council Finance Committee reviewing the proposed capital improvements plan at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, in City Hall.

The recommendations by City Manager Jon Jennings had not been released Tuesday, but the Finance Committee, led by Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. and including Councilors Pious Ali and Justin Costa, has also scheduled work on all budgets, including a review of the school budget.

The capital budget, used to purchase equipment and vehicles and pay for repairs and upgrades through bonds, could include as much as $5 million in requests for the School Department.

At their Jan. 12 meeting, the committee set goals of getting a bond question for upgrading city elementary schools to voters while including committee input, and keeping the overall tax increase to 2.5 percent from the present $21.11 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The current $339 million budget includes $103.6 million for education and $236 million for municipal operations, with $186 million spent on the municipal general fund.

The education budget is funded in part by $80.3 million in property tax revenues, and the municipal budget is funded with $84 million in property tax revenues.

Mayor Ethan Strimling also called for keeping any property tax increase at 2.5 percent or lower in his Jan. 9 State of the City address, and urged councilors to relieve the tax burden on the city’s senior citizens.

As the Finance Committee reviews planned bonded projects and purchases, city department heads are completing their budgets for review by Jennings.

Discussions on the municipal budget begin in earnest in April, following Jennings’ budget submission now scheduled for April 5. Throughout April, the Finance Committee will review municipal and education budgets.

A first reading on budgets by the full council and public hearing is scheduled for May 1, with more budget review coming in a council workshop May 8.

The council budget process is expected to last through May 15, when councilors vote on a budget that will include municipal and school department operations and also set the property tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

City councilors do vote on the school budget, but have no say on line-item spending. The school budget is also subject to a voter referendum, typically held in May. The date of this year’s referendum has not been set.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.