Leaders of the Portland school district say they expect money will be tight next year, and that likely means higher taxes for the city’s residents.

Xavier Botana, superintendent for the Portland school district, is schedule to unveil his budget proposal for the 2022-2023 school year on Tuesday, but last week warned that the state’s largest school district will get less money from the state and federal governments at the same time as labor costs and other expenses will rise.

Officials expect to receive $21.4 million from the state in the fiscal year that begins July 1. This year it got just over $24 million. That amounts to an 11.1 percent or $2.5 million decrease.

The district also anticipates that reimbursements for its food services program and its program to support students with special emotional and behavioral needs will bring less federal money than it had previously anticipated.

At the same time, the city’s schools are facing increased labor costs and insurance premiums and rising prices for utilities and goods, officials said.

The district has completed negotiations with the union representing office staff, transportation, facilities and maintenance workers and expects labor costs to go up around 6 percent for that group. They are still in negotiations with two other unions, including the teachers union.


All that means the district is likely to ask Portland taxpayers to accept a tax increase to fund the school district. The school district accounts for approximately one-third of the city’s total budget, which this year was around $400 million.

This year the city’s tax rate was $12.99, which for the owner of a $300,000 home would amount to $3,897 in taxes. The Portland tax rate decreased by almost 50 percent between 2021 and 2022 following a citywide property revaluation, It went from $23.31 in the 2021 fiscal year down to $12.99 in the present fiscal year.

In a statement to the Press Herald following the budget meeting, Botana said he is confident the community supports investments in education.

“Portland is a tremendously engaged community that understands that we are only as strong as our weakest link and that education is the great equalizer to ensure that we are all able to achieve our full potential,” he said.

This year, the Portland school district budget was almost $126.5 million. Botana did not reveal the  size of his proposed budget to be presented Tuesday.

The budget will have to be approved by the school board and the City Council before going to Portland voters in June for approval or rejection.


In addition to making ends meet, officials said they hope to make investments in pre-kindergarten, English language learner and foreign language programs.

The significant drop in state funding is largely the result of a 1.7 percent drop in enrollment at Portland Public Schools and the city’s increased property valuation, according to Botana.

When the state decides how much money it should give a certain school district, it first calculates how much money a district needs to run well and then figures out how much money a local district should contribute. The state pays the rest.

Enrollment, demographics and prior-year costs are some of the factors the state considers when deciding how much money a district needs. The more students in a district, the more money a district gets from the state. The state provides additional funding for English language learners and low-income students, among other groups.

Then the state figures out how much district taxpayers should contribute by looking at total property value in the community. Broadly, the higher the overall property value, the more a district must contribute. Property values in Portland have skyrocketed in recent years. Total property value in 2014 was $7.5 billion. In 2022, that number jumped to $12.1 billion, according to the state department of administrative and financial services.

The rising valuation of the city partly reflects a surge of new development in recent years, which generates added revenue for the schools through property taxes. That growth in property tax revenue is offset by the drop in state funding.


In 2004, Maine voters approved a ballot measure for the state to fund 55 percent of school costs. But it wasn’t until 2021 that the state approved the budget to make that a reality and last year was the first time 55 percent of school costs were fronted by the state.

Still, because of the area’s high property value, Portland receives a significantly smaller percentage of its school budget from the state than many other districts. This year the state subsidized 19 percent of the district’s budget.

In Lewiston, the state’s second largest school district after Portland, the state subsidized 71.4 percent of the budget. Falmouth received a 25 percent subsidy and Yarmouth 22.1 percent. Districts that received a smaller state subsidy than Portland include Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth.

Note: This article was updated Monday, March 14 to correct information about the city’s tax rate, which was reduced after a citywide valuation.

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