Eight school districts in Maine will each get at least an extra $1 million in state funds, with Portland’s school district alone getting an increase of almost $3 million more than expected.

With the state budget fight settled and an extra $162 million for education, school officials statewide got the final word on Wednesday about how much state funding they will receive for the upcoming school year.

Portland’s state allocation will increase to $16.2 million. Officials there had anticipated a $2.5 million decrease to $13.5 million for 2017-18.

In Scarborough, by comparison, the new budget didn’t change that district’s state allocation, which was decreased from 2016-17 by $1.4 million to $2.1 million. Sixty school districts will see no change in their state allocation.

But lawmakers are requiring that half of the extra money –– the state is distributing $48 million in 2017-18 and $114 million in 2018-19 – must be used for tax relief, under a provision in the budget. The only exception is in the first year, if voters stipulated how any extra state funds should be spend.

Department of Education spokeswoman Rachel Paling said Wednesday their office was “still working” with the Attorney General’s office on how to implement the part of the budget that requires districts to spend 50 percent of the additional funding on tax relief. A DOE official was not available to answer questions about the funding on Wednesday, she said.

In the letter to districts Wednesday, the department advised the school districts to consult with their attorneys to figure out how to implement that provision.

School budgets passed this spring and approved by voters at the ballot box were based on state funding estimates. The figures released Wednesday are the final calculations based on the $7.1 billion budget signed by Gov. Paul LePage on July 3 after a three-day government shutdown.

Even though the final budget has an increase in overall spending, there are other changes that could increase or decrease an individual district’s allocation. That’s because the Maine Department of Education uses a complex essential programs and services formula that considers factors such as local property valuations, the number of students with special needs or in poverty and other factors to determine how much money a district needs to provide education basics.

Among the changes in the final budget is reducing state funding for districts’ administration costs from $235 per student to $135 per student, and removing the penalty for federal Title I funds for disadvantaged students – about $50 million –– to allow those funds to flow to the districts.

Now that schools have the final figures, district officials need to update their 2017-18 budgets and present them to their school boards. In some cases, towns may need to go back out to referendum to spend any additional funds, which is required under state law.

Many towns, including Portland, included language in the budget referendum asking voters for the authority to spend any potential additional fund on either instruction, savings or tax relief.

“I’m happy,” said Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana. He plans to sit down with his staff and come up with a recommendation on how to spend the portion of money available to the district.

During the budget process, several items were cut and he said at the time he would like to reinstate them. Botana said the district got grant funds or alternative funding for some of those programs, and he will present his recommendation to the school board when they meet in August. Any additional school spending will also need authorization by the city council.

Biddeford Superintendent Jeremy Ray said the extra $900,000 will likely be split between tax relief and some capital improvement projects. In its initial budget, the district did not have to make any cuts and didn’t have to increase the tax rate.

“The city and city council have been extremely supportive of us in the projects we’ve needed,” Ray said. “The citizens stepped up for us when we needed a new high school so we’ll be interested in seeing the money go back.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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