Maine school districts will receive a total of $42 million more in state funding than expected for the 2023-24 school year because of an error the state Department of Education made in the initial funding allocation.

The subsidy amounts the department’s school finance team sent to school districts in January were incorrect because of a mistake in the data used to calculate the allocations, the department said Wednesday. The department found the problem this week while reviewing allocations and notified districts Tuesday night about the recalculated state subsidies, department spokesperson Marcus Mrowka said.

Many, but not all, districts around the state will receive more funding as a result. The Portland school district, the state’s largest, will receive $3.6 million more in state funding than initially expected and built into the district’s proposed budget. The Augusta school district will get around $560,000 more. The corrected calculation will give the Scarborough district around $1.5 million more in state funding and the Biddeford district around $900,000.

A total of 168 districts will get more aid than expected while 95 districts will see no change.

School officials said they have seen small changes between initial and final state subsidy calculations in past years, but they had never seen such a significant correction.

“I’ve never seen a change of this magnitude,” said Jake Langlais, superintendent of Lewiston Public Schools, which is to receive $800,000 more in state funding than originally anticipated.


The increase in state funding is welcome news for Portland co-interim Superintendents Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend. But it means they will have to take a few steps back as they near the end of their budget process to figure out how this money could impact their short- and long-term funding strategies. They said it was too soon to know how the last-minute change would affect spending plans or the tax impact of the budget.

“We’re grateful for the additional resources because we definitely need them,” Nalli said. “We were cutting a lot of things from our budget in order to achieve our priorities and be responsive to budget pressures, but it’s complicated to get this news after we built the budget.”

The district got the news moments before a school finance committee meeting at which members were scheduled to vote on budget amendments and pass the budget to the full board. The committee decided to cut the meeting short after members realized they didn’t have enough information to vote on the budget given the news. The district has since added an additional finance committee meeting Monday so district administrators can present an updated budget proposal. The full school board is scheduled to vote on the budget in less than two weeks.

Prior to news of the additional funding, the Portland school district had proposed a 7% increase on the school portion of the city’s tax rate and planned to cut positions and scale back some programs while covering the cost of others with one-time federal funding. Now they are reconsidering some of those decisions.

“The framework of the budget will remain in terms of priorities and overall strategy, but we’ll be revisiting the things that we wanted to put in the budget that didn’t make it in,” Townsend said.

Portland’s interim superintendents said that a reduction in the overall tax increase may be on the table, but that they are not sure.


At a finance committee meeting Monday, some committee members said they would support a reduction in the proposed tax increase, but others said they would like the tax increase to remain unchanged because of intense budget pressures. Finance committee Chair Sarah Brydon said that the district is in a tight financial spot and is trying to maintain services.

“The state adjustment in subsidy is not enough to fill the gap in terms of what we need to deliver for students to be really successful,” Brydon said.

Mrowka, the state education department spokesman, said the error was the result of “a duplicative data entry in the algorithm that generates the funding estimates in the reports.” The department did not respond to questions Wednesday about how the mistake was made or how it was discovered. It also wasn’t immediately clear why many districts will see increases, and others will not.

The budget will go to a school board vote on April 11 and to the City Council for approval on May 15. Members of the City Council have in the past asked the district to reduce its budget. Voters will have their say on June 13.

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