Melea Nalli is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at

June 13 is when Portland residents will vote on a school budget for the 2023-24 school year. Each year, a public referendum concludes our collaborative budget process.

“Collaborative” describes something that is accomplished by working together with others. That’s exactly how the Portland Public Schools develops a school budget every year.

We began the FY24 budget process facing daunting fiscal challenges. Inflation and other factors have resulted in higher “rollover” costs to allow our district to simply continue what we currently do. Coupled with an expected $2.4 million loss in state subsidy and other revenue adjustments, that would have required an 8.7% tax increase in FY24. Adding in other important programmatic budget needs/requests would have required a tax rate increase of 15.5%.

Instead, the $143.8 million FY24 school budget that the Portland Board of Public Education approved on April 11 to send to the City Council entails a 6% increase in the school tax rate.

This budget is the result of many weeks of hard work on the part of the board, district, school leaders and staff. It reflects many difficult choices, and numerous requests did not make it in. What is in the budget has been informed by many emails and messages and feedback at public hearings from members of the Portland community.

The board’s recommended budget meets our three key priorities for the 2023-24 school year: One, maintaining the commitment to the Portland Promise goals of Achievement, Whole Student and People, all intertwined with the fourth central goal of equity. Two, being responsive to the needs of all students, especially those newly learning English. And three, improving operational effectiveness in such areas as finance and human resources.


Aaron Townsend is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at

This budget also is cognizant of Portland taxpayers. We recently learned that the state had miscalculated its education aid to local school districts and that our district’s FY24 subsidy would be $3.6 million, higher than expected. Our health insurance rates were just confirmed as lower than anticipated, resulting in $400,000 in savings. The board’s budget uses more than $1 million of these funds to reduce the impact on local taxpayers, with the rest used to preserve core programming. The 6% school tax rate increase in the board’s budget is down from the 7% increase originally proposed March 14.

The 6% increase – in line with inflation – would raise the overall school tax rate by nearly 43 cents, for a total rate of approximately $7.48 per $1,000 valuation. It would increase the annual tax bill for the median family home in Portland (valued at $375,000) by just over $159 per year, or about $13.25 per month.

The board also has been working with the council, which sets the bottom line of the school budget, throughout this process. The 6% tax increase is within the 5-7% range city councilors gave the board as guidance.

We don’t have space here to detail budget specifics, but you can learn more on our website. We believe this budget is balanced and responsible. It invests in all students, including our newly arrived multilingual learners, provides fair compensation for our hardworking staff and shores up core operations, including finance and human resources, while being mindful of taxpayers.

On April 24, the board’s recommended budget goes to the council, which will review it before taking a final vote on May 15 to send it to referendum. Please stay engaged as we all work together to achieve a 2023-24 school budget that supports our Portland Promise goals.

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