The Portland school board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $133.1 million budget for the 2022-23 school year.

“I am proud to support this budget tonight,” said board Chair Emily Figdor. “This budget meets the moment. It continues our equity work while also recognizing the economic reality that we’re facing right now with inflation at historic levels.”

It totals $150,000 more than the spending plan proposed by Superintendent Xavier Botana in March and includes funds to increase salaries and benefits for faculty and staff, pay for curriculum materials and professional development, and grow the district’s pre-K program.  

The board-approved budget is about $6.5 million more than the current year’s $126.5 million budget, an increase of 5.2 percent.

If passed by the City Council in May and voters in June, the budget would increase the Portland schools’ portion of the tax rate by 28 cents, or 4.1 percent, from $6.77 per $1,000 valuation to $7.05 per $1,000. The increase would result in an $84 tax increase for the owner of a $300,000 home. Last year, the school portion of the budget increased the city tax rate by 3.9 percent.  

The additional $150,000 would pay for additional social workers and English language teachers, would come entirely from school district reserves, and would not in itself raise the tax rate.  


The budget focuses on retaining current programs, strengthening instruction, and making schools safer and more equitable, according to Botana. Over the past five years, the school district has almost doubled investment in equity and mental health. In the 2017-18 school year, the district spent almost $8 million on English language teachers, pre-K, family engagement and mental health supports. In 2021-22, that amount jumped to over $14 million.  

Botana said the focus of next year’s budget is to maintain the work the district has started.

Money is expected to be tight next year for Portland schools.  The district is slated to receive less state and federal funding next year, and is grappling with inflation.

This year the district received $24 million from the state but next year it expects to receive closer to $21.4 million. The district also expects to get less money from federal reimbursements for its food services program and to support students with special needs. 

At the same time, inflation is increasing at its fastest pace since 1982. Prices rose almost 6.4 percent from February 2021 to February 2022 – generally, the Federal Reserve tries to maintain a 2 percent annual increase. This means everything from insurance premiums to energy and labor will cost a little bit more.  

The largest share of the budget increase – $4.4 million out of the $6.6 million total – would pay for salaries and benefits. Labor costs also account for the largest portion of the school budget – almost $105 million out of just over $133 million.  


The City Council is slated to vote on the budget on May 16. The budget will go to Portland taxpayers on June 14. 

In other news, the board unanimously approved using $793,992 to cover costs related to construction delays at two of the district’s elementary schools – Longfellow and Presumpscot. Student representative Jody Diou abstained from the vote.

It took the city longer than anticipated to grant permits to the district for the elementary school renovations. The almost $800,000 will largely pay for overtime costs for contractors and subcontractors so that the schools can be completed as close to on time as possible.

Already, three elementary schools – Longfellow, Reiche and Presumpscot – are expected to run between four and five months behind schedule. Presumpscot renovations were supposed to be completed by August, but are now expected to be done by January 2023. Longfellow and Reiche were supposed to be done by August 2023, but are now expected to be done by December 2023.

The money will come from a $450,000 budget surplus left after renovating the Lyseth elementary school, and from $581,049 in leftover funds from the $64.3 million bond approved by voters in 2017 to renovate the four elementary schools. The district will be left with just under $200,000 in those pots.

The district has other unallocated funds for construction, including around $2.25 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment and $1.25 million in construction contingency.

However, the budget may be tight for the remainder of the construction. The district is negotiating an almost $1.2 million delay claim with Hardypond construction, the company contracted to renovate Reiche. The construction delays mean the district will not be able to move forward with other projects officials hoped to spend surplus funds on, such as building more pre-K classrooms.

“It’s frustrating that we have to spend the money on these delayed costs,” said Figdor, “rather than on doing everything we can to have the school buildings meet the students’ needs.”

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