2013-06-14 / Community

School budget passes

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – South Portland voters elected to pass the proposed $43 million 2013-2014 school budget in a referendum Tuesday, June 11.

The vote passed by a significant margin, with 591 residents supporting the budget – 76 percent of voters – versus 189 residents who voted against the budget.

Additionally, 60 percent of South Portland voters chose to continue the referendum process for the school budget for another three years, through 2016. There were 465 votes to continue the process against 311 to end voter approval.

Without a referendum vote, the school budget would pass when the South Portland City Council gives its final approval, which happened this year on May 20.

South Portland’s referendum does not ask residents who vote not to pass the budget whether they believe the figure to be too high or too low, as some other city ballots do, including Cape Elizabeth’s. Last month, more than 60 percent of Cape voters chose to pass the town’s 2013-2014 proposed school budget.

Voter turnout was low for South Portland’s school referendum; less than 4 percent of the city’s roughly 20,000 registered voters came out to the polls. The 780 total votes cast are similar to the total numbers both from last year’s school budget referendum and from the special election for the District 1 City Council seat, held in March. Councilor Michael Pock won that special election by two votes, with a total of 180.

The 2013-2014 school budget calls for $37.1 million to be raised by taxpayer contributions, up from $35.2 million last year. The school budget will increase the city’s property tax rate 0.63 percent, or 6.5 cents per $1,000 of valuation, a $12.68 total increase on the median property tax bill of a home worth $195,000.

Combined with an 18-cent increase to the mil rate for continuing payments on the South Portland High School renovation bond, the total impact to the median property tax bill will be $47.78.

The South Portland City Council has yet to approve the $28.8 million municipal budget, although a vote will likely occur Monday, June 17 after the city departments continue their discussion of proposed budgets with the council at a workshop Monday, June 10.

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