Portland school budget referendum goes to voters May 10

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PORTLAND — All polling places will be open May 10 for the annual school budget referendum.

The $103.6 million budget for fiscal year 2017, which the City Council approved Monday and was unanimously recommended by the School Board at the end of March, is a 0.8 percent increase over the current budget, or about $826,000.

The proposed tax rate increase resulting from the school budget is 2 percent, or a rate of $10.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase over the current $10.12. The impact on the owner of a home valued at the Portland average of $227,000 would be an increase of just under $48 in annual taxes.

Combined with the municipal side of the budget and obligations to Cumberland County, the city budget would add 47 cents  per $1,000 of assessed value, making the fiscal year 2017 total tax rate $21.10. The total combined budget is $236 million.

Portland has had poor voter turnout for the school budget validation referendum over the past several years. Last year, only 970 residents turned out to vote, or less than 2 percent of all registered voters. Turnout has generally declined over the years; in 2008, more than 3,500 people voted in the budget referendum.

In comparison, about 2,500 people turned out last month to pass a referendum to replace the aging Fred P. Hall Elementary School at 23 Orono Road. As of February, there were more than 54,000 registered voters in Portland, meaning just about 4 percent of voters turned out for the Hall vote.

Also on the ballot this year will be a question on whether to continue the budget referendum process for another three years.

Polling stations around the city will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; locations are posted on the city website. City residents can register to vote on Election Day at their polling place with identification that shows a current address.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.