Proposed Portland school budget would hike taxes 2.3%

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PORTLAND — The School Board’s Finance Committee unanimously recommended a nearly $102.8 million budget to the full board at a public hearing on March 19.

The public hearing, in Portland High School’s Alumni Hall, failed to bring many members of the public out to speak and lasted just over an hour.

One concern raised by the public was how the impact of the district possibly partnering with Metro for high school transportation.

Ellen Sanborn, the district’s chief financial officer, said the fiscal 2016 budget “doesn’t anticipate anything specific” in terms of Metro, since it’s still in negotiation. Instead, she said the budget uses the current transportation model, and cost differences will be made up in savings on things like drivers and gasoline.

School Board member Stephanie Hatzenbuehler said it is difficult to think about voting on something that is anticipated, like the Metro plan, and asked what the back-up plan is if the bus negotiations fall through.

Sanborn said once the budget is approved, it’s tough to work around, but they can move numbers around to make things work as long as they stay within the approved budget.

“The total is the total,” Sanborn said, adding the budget is a “prediction” for the future.

The two members of the public who attended the public hearing both expressed concerns about the effect the proposed budget will have on the tax rate.

If the budget is adopted as proposed, it would result in a 2.3 percent increase in the school portion of the city’s property tax, adding about $23 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed value.

“At some point the public is going to vote down your budget,” resident Steven Scharf said. “We’ll see when that is.”

The budget proposal was scheduled for a first reading and board workshop on March 24 at 6 p.m. at the Ocean Avenue Elementary School.

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.