AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine’s Board of Education has issued a strongly worded statement of opposition to the tax cap initiative that will appear on November’s ballot.

The board says the cap on local property taxes will draw hundreds of millions of dollars from Maine’s tax base, and “education will not be exempt from the pain.”

The initiative, known as the Palesky proposal, would cap property taxes at $10 per $1,000 of assessed value, based on values in 1996-97. It also would limit assessment increases to 2 percent a year while the property’s ownership remains in a family.

The Board of Education, which offers direction on school policy to the governor and Legislature, says the cap would result in “crippling cuts in school funds” while expanding state control of education.

Its statement, released last Wednesday, says the initiative appears just after voters approved an increase in state aid to education to 55 percent of costs. Gov. John Baldacci and others want to phase in the increase over several years to make it more affordable for the state.

“The days of finding significant reductions in school costs by eliminating fat’ are gone,” says the board’s statement, adding that public schools have been cutting administrative and teaching staffs, programs and increasing class sizes for several years.

Earlier this month, a coalition of more than 30 groups called Citizens United to Protect Our Public Safety, Schools and Communities, kicked off its campaign against the tax cap, saying it would devastate local services and schools.

The group’s membership ranges from the Maine AFL-CIO and AARP Maine to the Maine Municipal Association and Maine Association of Police.

Supporters of the tax cap say property taxes are rising exponentially in some communities, forcing some longtime residents to sell their homes and move.

Proponents also say some of the groups represented by the citizens’ coalition are looking out for their own financial well-being at the expense of property taxpayers.

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