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Voters Validate Equity-Based FY22 School Budget

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Voters Validate Equity-Based FY22 School Budget
Posted on 06/08/2021
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Portland voters on Tuesday, June 8, voted overwhelmingly to validate the Portland Public Schools’ $125.2 million budget for fiscal year 2022. The budget includes $2.9 million in investments in initiatives to better support students with special needs and who are English language learners.

According to unofficial results from the office of Portland City Clerk on Tuesday, June 8, the vote to validate the budget was 6,698 or 77.08 percent in favor and 1,992 or 22.92 percent opposed, a margin of more than 3 to 1.

The FY22 school budget is up 4.4 percent or $5.3 million over this year’s budget of $119.9 million. About $2.4 million of the increase is a baseline budget that maintains current programs and services and covers increased costs for salaries, benefits and debt service. Equity investments totaling $2.9 million make up the remainder. The budget, which assumes a full return to in-person learning this fall, entails a 5.5 percent increase in the school portion of the tax rate.

Superintendent Xavier Botana issued the following statement in response to the results: “Thank you, Portland voters, for your resounding support of our school budget for the 2021-2022 school year. This budget, endorsed by both the Portland Board of Public Education and the City Council, not only maintains current programs and services, but puts equity at the center of our work by making investments to address achievement and opportunity gaps for students who are English language learners, have disabilities and are economically disadvantaged. I am proud to work and live in a community that consistently shows that it not only believes in the value of public education but also in making that education accessible for all. Thanks to the Portland community’s support for our schools, we can now move forward and focus all our energies on planning for students to return to full-time learning this fall.”

Board Chair Emily Figdor also issued a statement, saying: “Portland voters have once again come out decisively in support of our schools. I am overjoyed and so grateful to be a part of a community that deeply values public education. We’re turning a corner with this budget to finally provide kids who are marginalized by society with an equitable education. This budget will open doors, unleash so much potential, and change kids’ lives. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it passed--and by such a large margin. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Portland voters!”

The municipal budget that the City Council approved June 7, combined with the school budget, will result in an approximately 1 percent overall increase in property taxes. That’s about $54 more per year in taxes on a home assessed at $300,000.

If the Maine Legislature approves Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed $187 million supplemental budget for education – which would increase the state’s share of school funding to a voter-mandated 55 percent – the Portland Public Schools could receive an additional $6.2 million in state education aid for this coming school year.

“We are hopeful that the Legislature will act favorably on the Governor's request.  We will then be prepared to bring recommendations to the School Board for their approval and subsequently the City Council's approval,” Botana said. “If completed by mid-July, it will be reflected in this year's tax bills.”

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school meals.