Superintendent Xavier Botana says the Portland school board’s finance committee has asked him to cut $3.9 million from his proposed $113 million budget so that there is only a 4.5 percent increase in the school portion of the tax levy.

His current budget would require a 9 percent increase in the tax rate.

Among the ideas being considered are increasing class sizes, closing the island elementary schools, charging students fees to play sports, eliminating some assistant principal positions and cutting some crossing guards and school resource officers, according to a list of possible savings presented in a school board workshop Tuesday night.

Other options include consolidating schools, but Botana said the finance committee said that would not be considered this year, but in future years since the state’s subsidy to Portland is expected to decline over time. Botana’s budget will next be considered at a joint meeting of the city and school board finance committees on Thursday.

“Honestly, I’m just shocked. These are major things, disruptive of the entire district,” school board member Marnie Morrione said after the proposed cuts were reviewed. “I will not agree and do not support a 4.5 percent (rate.)”

Morrione said she thought the board should put forward the budget with the costs of the programming and staffing levels that they believe best serves the students.

“Xavier has a plan. We made a promise,” said board member Roberto Rodriguez, urging support for Botana’s original budget. “I’m here to advocate for our students and for our teachers, and our promise to narrow that achievement gap.”

Board member Mark Balfantz said he supported immediately forming a committee to pursue school consolidation next year, and board member Laurie Davis said she supported redistricting elementary schools.

Jenna Vendil, the chairwoman of the board’s finance committee, said asking for the cuts was an attempt to head off likely objections from city officials.

“Our intention is to not make the budget a political football between the city council and (the board),” Vendil said. “We wanted to put forward a modest proposal that reflects our best thinking having done due diligence, leaving no stone unturned in terms of what we can do.”

Botana said he would present the adjusted budget to the school board next Tuesday.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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