South Portland school budget heads to City Council

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board on May 13 approved a $52.3 million budget for fiscal year 2020 that now moves to the City Council.

The budget, up $2.3 million from current spending, requires a 3.41 percent tax increase.

Superintendent Ken Kunin said the bottom line is the same as what was proposed March 11, although some items changed to reflect a lower-than-expected cost of health insurance.

“Numbers often change because the budget is driven by personnel costs,” Kunin said. “Seventy-nine percent of a budget is salary and benefits for employees, teachers, bus drivers and so on. The original estimation for the health insurance rate was a 5.5 percent increase, but it was actually only a 3.2 percent increase.”

The budget as proposed adds a special education teacher to the middle and high schools and eliminates three vacant educational technician positions.

Also in the budget is a $7,000 reduction in transportation costs, to $2.4 million. Debt service was approved at the original estimate of $4.5 million.

Capital spending improvements stood at $814,000, with just over $300,000 slated for student technology needs, including iPads and laptop computers.

The budget would add 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to the property tax rate, while increasing overall spending by 4 percent. The city property tax rate is anticipated to be $19.17 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of 3.6%, with $12.74 of the rate funding education. 

If the spending plan is accepted by the City Council on Tuesday, May 21, and is OK’d by a budget validation referendum on June 11, local property tax revenues would increase from $42.9 million to $44.5 million, offset by an anticipated $600,000 increase in state aid to education, to $6.8 million.

According to Kunin, total non-tax revenue was up 5.25 percent this year. Comparing non-property tax revenue between FY18 and FY20, he said it is down by 4.75 percent, which shows that the state subsidy has not kept up with the school expenses.

The aid, if approved, would be the second-highest amount in six years. The budget also projects using $250,000 of $1.48 million in surplus from the FY18 budget.

According to Kunin, the budget uses a three-year average for the state’s valuations of city properties, instead of two years, and relies less on department reserves than it has in prior years.

Krysteana Scribner can be reached at kscribner@theforecaster.net or 780-9094. Follow her on Twitter: @krysteana2016.

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