South Portland school budget proposes 3.5% tax hike

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board voted unanimously Monday for a proposed budget that calls for an almost 3.5 percent tax increase.

The $48.9 million fiscal 2018 budget, up 2.61 percent from current spending, would increase the school share of the city’s property tax rate to $12.19 from $11.78. That would cost homeowners with a $200,000 home more than $2,400, or an increase of $82 a year.

The budget must still be approved by the City Council and ratified in a voter referendum.

Also Monday, the School Board approved the School Department capital improvement plan. 

The budget vote came after the board received final costs for health insurance: an increase of about 4.5 percent or approximately $55,000 in premiums.

To keep the 3.49 percent increase that was earlier proposed and previously passed on a first reading, Superintendent of Schools Ken Kunin said the board chose to pay for a half-time special education resource room teacher from a federal grant and transferred more funds from the technology and transportation reserves to cover major purchases. 

Kunin earlier said that the proposed budget is based on the expectation of a decrease of more than $305,000 in the state subsidy to city schools. The subsidy was almost $6 million this year.

There will be a joint city and school budget workshop at 7 p.m. April 24 in City Council chambers. A public hearing is scheduled for May 15, and on June 13 the school budget referendum will be held.

Kunin said residents this year will also be asked to give the board authorization to spend any additional general purpose aid awarded to South Portland schools in the upcoming budget year. In the past, additional funds awarded from the state had to be saved for the following year. 

The School Department Capital Improvement Plan totals just over $1 million.

Some of the proposed projects include school technology upgrades, such as the purchase of iPads, laptop computers, and interactive white boards; the purchase of one transit bus and two seven-passenger vans; high school repairs and storage, and security cameras.

The board on Monday also approved June 21 as the last day of classes for students; June 22 will be the final day for teachers and education technicians.

The board also unanimously approved the school calender for 2017-2018, which reflects later school start times.

The school day will start at 8:10 a.m. for South Portland High School, 8:30 a.m. for the middle schools, and 9:05 a.m. at elementary schools.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

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