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Maine schools projected to receive more state funding after data error is corrected

Students from Regional School Unit 5 wear COVID face coverings as they head home on a school bus, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Freeport, Maine. Under the new rules following Christmas break, students and staff will no longer be considered a "close contact" if they are exposed to someone with the virus in an outdoor setting or on a school bus, as masks are required on Maine school buses.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Students from Regional School Unit 5 wear COVID face coverings as they head home on a school bus, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Freeport, Maine. Under the new rules following Christmas break, students and staff will no longer be considered a "close contact" if they are exposed to someone with the virus in an outdoor setting or on a school bus, as masks are required on Maine school buses.

Maine's public school districts are now projected to receive an extra $42 million from the state after the Maine Department of Education discovered an error in the state's school funding estimates.

The agency released initial funding estimates earlier this year. But in a message to schools this week, the DOE said that it found a "duplicative data entry" in the algorithm that generated the estimates.

After fixing the issue, the department said the result was a lower mil rate for towns, meaning more state funding.

Portland is projected to receive an extra $3.6 million under the new projections, while Lewiston would receive an additional $800,000.

Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais said the increased state funding may partially ease the district's budget crunch. The district had been looking at reducing about 60 positions as part of nearly $4 million in cuts.

"This funding will certainly help. But we'll still have an incredible shortfall," Langlais said.

Meanwhile, in Biddeford, Superintendent Jeremy Ray said the city was looking at raising taxes significantly to keep up with higher costs due to inflation and increasing teacher salaries.

Ray said the new projections will provide the city with about $900,000, which should allow the district to ease the tax burden on residents.

"And so this will go directly towards providing tax relief," Ray said.

No districts are projected to lose any extra funding in the latest state funding projections.