Portland school officials say they expect the district could need an additional $15.5 million to cover a range of expenses next year, many of them exacerbated by inflation and a reduction in state aid.

Those expenses include pre-K expansion costs, payroll outsourcing, special education services and supports for multilingual students and new Mainers. District leaders presented a broad spending outline during a preliminary budget meeting Monday night. The 2024 fiscal year begins on July 1.

The school district’s budget this year totals $133 million. Maintaining current staffing levels and resources while accounting for inflation, wage increases and a $2.4 million decrease in state funding would cost an additional $10.4 million above the current budget, officials said. 

The district would need $5.1 million more than that to continue to expand programs like pre-K, fulfill legal obligations such as special education services, and to move previously grant-funded programs into the general budget. The $15.5 million overall spending increase would bring the total to $148.5 million.

School and district leaders noted that the district is still in the early stages of the budget process, that $15.5 million is just a starting point and that they are looking at a variety of funding sources, including federal pandemic funding, to pay for essential school district services.

The large majority of the district budget – 79% – goes toward salaries and benefits. The rest pays for contracted services, debt service and supplies and other items.


Almost all of the district’s money – around 80% in recent years – comes from local property taxes. The remainder comes from state funding and paid services. The state will contribute around $19 million to the district’s budget this year, down from $21.5 million for the current year.

The district plans to be in close communication with the city and to continue to consider the impact of budget increases on city taxpayers, said school board Chair Sarah Lentz in an interview after Monday’s meeting.

“We’re looking into all options to keep the (tax rate) increase as low as possible for folks while maintaining all the investments that are essential to our young people,” said Lentz.

District superintendents Aaron Townsend and Melea Nalli are scheduled to present their budget recommendation to the school board on March 14.

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