The Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association are urging all their members to contact legislators and advocate for an additional $20 million in state aid to avoid increasing the burden on local property taxpayers.
The proposed increase in the local mill rate for schools from 8.2 mills to 8.44 mills, which represents a $20 million increase in local property taxes statewide, is being driven by circumstances out of the control of individual school districts.
$12 million increase in the cost of education statewide, largely due to special education cost increases and maintenance of effort spending required by the federal government.
$6 million more going to charter schools due to enrollment increases in existing schools and the addition of two new charter schools next year.
$1.4 billion drop in statewide property values.
There are at least two legislative options to appropriate additional funding that is needed to prevent cuts in current state aid in 131 school districts. Click here to see the spreadsheet.
One includes a Democratic amendment on the tax conformity bill currently sitting on the unfinished business calendar. Both Republicans and Democrats want some form of tax conformity to pass, but disagree on a business tax credit. The Democratic proposal on that bill is tied to $23 million in additional aid for schools.
Another is a stand-alone bill that Education Committee Chairman Sen. Brian Langley, R-Hancock, proposed to legislative leaders on Thursday. That bill was tabled but could be taken up again by the Legislative Council. It would give $20 million to schools, and Sen. Langley said the hearing on it would allow legislators and the public to better understand the cost drivers that are putting more burden on local property taxpayers.
Both would be funded all or in part by a state budget surplus.
“There’s a $72 million budget surplus and a portion of that money needs to go to public education,” said MSBA President Becky Fles. “It’s imperative all sides come together for the good of students in the state of Maine.”
The legislative committees of MSBA and MSSA have not taken a position on tax conformity.
“We are not taking a position on the tax conformity debate,” said MSSA President Susan Pratt. “Our knowledge and experience is in public education not tax policy. We are asking both sides of the aisle to find a way to increase funding for public education by $20 million to avoid increasing the burden on local property taxpayers for schools.”