PORTLAND — The public will have its first opportunity to discuss a proposed $102.3 million school budget during a Finance Committee meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in the Alumni Hall at Portland High School.
The public hearing is part of the second budget-related meeting since the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal was unveiled by Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk on March 11.
Laurie Davis, chairwoman of the four-member Finance Committee, said members of the public will each have three minutes to discuss the budget during the hearing.
On Thursday, March 13, the committee had its first review of the budget, but it’s too early to say whether the panel supports it as written, Davis said.
“We’re understanding how it works; the drivers behind the (proposed $4 million) increase,” she said. “At this point we’re seeking to understand it and how it was constructed.”
So far, there are no surprises within the 113-page document, she said, unlike last year’s budget, which included a $1.4 million increase in retirement costs.
“In that sense, it was a relief that there were no sudden big changes,” she said.
Davis added that many of this year’s proposed increases were expected: debts, health insurance, and staff costs, the latter of which are “fairly predictable.”
“When you have a good staff, and a staff that stays, the compensation package increases each year,” she said.
If accepted as written, the budget would increase the school portion of Portland’s tax rate by 3.7 percent, adding about $36.15 of taxes per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to the district’s numbers. For a median value home of $241,700 in Portland, the tax increase would be almost $90 per year.
The proposed increase is driven by cost increases of $950,000 for health insurance, $880,000 for debt service, $443,000 for facilities, $350,000 for early childhood education staffing, $250,000 for Casco Bay High School staffing, and more.
The proposal also aims to restore lunch aide positions for elementary schools at a cost of $160,000.
Including Thursday’s public hearing, there are seven scheduled meetings regarding the fiscal year 2015 budget.