Portland schools cut $125K from budget proposal

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PORTLAND — The City Council will hold a public hearing Monday on the proposed $89.5 million school budget for fiscal year 2012.

The City Council Finance Committee approved the budget April 14. It is $125,000 smaller than the original proposal because the School Board was able to remove debt service funding included for a new central kitchen.

School Board Chairwoman Kate Snyder said negotiations to build a new central kitchen had fallen through.

“So we took that money out of this budget,” Snyder said.

The last-minute change reduced the amount the School Board was seeking to fund from the undesignated fund balance to $155,000 from $280,000. The remaining $200,000 had been requested from a separate, food service fund.

Councilor John Anton, the Finance Committee chairman, said the committee informally agreed to instead apply the $155,000 to the tax levy and find an equal amount to cut in the municipal side of the budget.

The committee will have to cut a total of $800,000 from the municipal side of the budget in order to send no more than a combined 2 percent tax increase to the full City Council, which is their goal. The proposed city budget is about $200 million.

The School Department’s original request to use city reserves to fund its budget had raised questions from some councilors. Bond rating firms look at a city’s undesignated fund balance when determining ratings, which affect interest rates available to cities for loans. Some councilors, including Anton, thought tapping into the fund, which is currently about $20 million, for the school budget was imprudent.

The school budget goes before the council April 25 for a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 2, and it goes to Portland voters for approval May 10.

This story was corrected April 21 to include the total amount of cuts needed to the proposed municipal budget to arrive at a 2 percent increase.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katebucklin.