A Portland school board committee voted Monday night to support a revised budget proposal that would devote about $1 million out of $3.6 million in unexpected state education aid to reducing a proposed increase in the school portion of the property tax rate from 7 percent to 6 percent, which would save the owner of a median value home of $375,000 about $20 in taxes.

The district learned it will receive the additional $3.6 million in state funding for 2023-24 when the Department of Education announced last week that the subsidy amounts sent to school districts in January were incorrect because of a mistake in the data used to calculate the allocations. Overall, Maine school districts will receive $42 million more in state funding than expected. A total of 168 school districts will get more aid than expected while 95 districts will see no change.

Portland Finance Committee members met virtually Monday night to consider the revised school budget developed by co-interim superintendents Melia Nalli and Aaron Townsend. Committee members Sarah Bryden, Emily Figdor, Yusuf Yusuf, and Julianne Opperman voted unanimously to recommend the new budget to the full school board, which is scheduled to hold a first reading and public hearing on the budget Tuesday night.

“We believe this updated budget is a fair proposal that enables us to maintain our Portland Promise gains for the 2023-2024 school year and to support our staff and students while being cognizant of Portland taxpayers,” Nalli and Townsend wrote in their presentation.

School officials said they have never before seen such a significant state aid correction.

Portland school board members praised Nalli and Townsend for cobbling together a revised 2023-24 budget that builds on the district’s goals of strengthening academics, behavioral health and operational systems while being responsive to the needs of students, especially English language learners.


The Portland district had proposed a 7% increase in 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.

The original spending proposal called for a $141.3 million budget for the 2023-24 academic year, an $8.2 million increase over this year’s $133.1 million budget. The revised budget totals $143.8 million, including $1,043,057 allocated for reducing the tax increase.

Nalli and Townsend are proposing that some of the additional state aid pay to return community coordinator positions to the budget and cover the cost of some core services that would have been funded with federal ESSERF (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) monies that became available to school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nalli and Townsend say they want to fund nine math coach positions, 16.5 elementary and high school teaching positions, and five high school youth development positions, as well as 3.38 community coordinator positions.

Nalli and Townsend said the proposed budget adjustments will free up ESSERF funds for other budget priorities next year.

“We are investing with an eye towards the funding cliff one year from this Spring when these additional ESSERF resources are no longer available to us,” Nalli and Townsend wrote in their proposal.


Those investments will include additional resources for summer learning, curriculum materials and staff to help the district advance its equity, achievement, whole student and other goals, they said. The federal relief funds will help pay to address the influx of new students with language-learning needs.

Several school board members who are not on the Finance Committee listened in on Monday night’s virtual session, including Aura Russell-Bedder.

“You have done incredible work in a very short number of days,” Russell-Bedder told the interim superintendents. “It’s very thoughtful and I’m really pleased.”

The School Board is scheduled to vote April 11 on whether to approve the final budget, and it then would go to the City Council for a vote on May 15. City voters will have the final say on June 13.

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