Portland school Superintendent Ryan Scallon laid out a $161 million spending plan Tuesday night for the school district’s 2024-25 school year, $2 million less than the current $163 million school budget.

But while the plan calls for an overall $2 million reduction, the portion of the budget that would come from local taxes, $119.4 million, would be almost $10 million greater than this year’s $110.9 million share. As a result, the school district’s portion of city taxes next year would increase by 6.85%, resulting in an annual tax increase of $191.25 on a $375,000 home, the median house price in Portland.

While the local tax share would increase, the total budget would still go down because of a significant loss in federal COVID-19 relief money. The level of state funding would stay the same.

Schools with more students and more economically disadvantaged students, non-English speakers and students with special needs get more state money. But as property values go up, as they have in Portland in recent years, state funding goes down based on the assumption that communities with higher property values can afford to put more local money into schools.

Even though Portland’s overall student population and population of students who are economically disadvantaged, don’t speak English and have special needs has risen in recent years, its state funding has remained relatively flat.

The proposal would cover some inflation and salary increases and make up in part for the loss of millions of dollars of federal COVID-19 relief money that ran out this fall. But it would also require cuts, including staff positions, and reallocation of resources to where the district sees the most need.


The year ahead is likely to be an especially challenging one for the Portland district as it tackles significant academic challenges while trying to keep costs down.

An outside review of Portland schools conducted in September found that student graduation rates and scores on statewide exams are lower than the state average, that the district is providing grade-level material in less than 50% of classrooms, that students seemed cognitively engaged in less than 25% of classrooms, and that student experience varies depending on race, economic status and school attended.

But maintaining all the district’s current programs and positions and covering all lost revenue would require a 17.41% increase in the school portion of the city’s tax rate.

“Arriving at the budget we are recommending to you tonight has required some painful trade-offs,” said Scallon. “But the reductions in this budget have been made as far away from students as possible.”

The budget prioritizes maintaining class sizes, mental health services, support for multilingual and special education learners, extra-curricular activities for K-12 students ranging from foreign languages to sports, and increasing the range of classes available to students, including adding algebra at all middle schools, Scallon said.


The spending plan would add eight new mental health and social work staff to support homeless students and those facing mental health challenges at a cost of $750,000, increase special education staffing at a cost of $600,000, and add at least 16 reading intervention staff at a cost of around $2 million. The reading intervention cost would be offset by a reduction in other staff.

The plan calls for the district to save money by reorganizing the central office, saving $2.6 million, hiring more in-house transportation staff instead of relying on more expensive contracted bus companies, decreasing district spending on supplies, and reducing the number of district employees, including classroom teachers and support staff, secretaries, custodial staff and instructional coaches.

Educators, parents and school board members said they were concerned about the proposed reduction in staff.

“A smaller student-to-teacher ratio is indispensable to ensuring student success,” said Calvin Soule, a King Middle School teacher. “These cuts will reduce the quality and quantity of instruction.”

Jenn Carter, an eighth-grade science teacher at Lincoln Middle School, echoed Soule.

“I feel like ed-techs and teachers are our most important resource for students,” said Carter. “At Lincoln, at least, we don’t have enough ed-techs to the point that some of our special education students aren’t receiving all the services their (individualized special education plans) dictate.”


Portland Education Association President Kerrie Dowdy said she has “many questions” concerning the reduction of teaching and ed-tech positions.

Rowe Elementary school parent Anna Cohen also said she’s worried about the proposed cuts and encouraged the board to do their best to modify them.

“When you think about what makes a teacher want to stay in a district, it’s time to eat lunch and return a call to the doctor,” said Cohen, who is a teacher in a different school district. “When you think about what makes teachers stay in a district, it’s manageable class sizes and support in their classroom.”

School Board Chair Sarah Lentz said the proposed cuts were not undertaken lightly, but the district has to move toward a more sustainable funding model.

“This is the best case budget for the challenges we are facing,” she said after the meeting.

Tuesday night’s proposal is the beginning of a months-long process to approve a budget ahead of the 2025 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The district’s finance committee, the school board and the city are scheduled to work on the budget over the next few weeks. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget on April 4, followed by the City Council on May 20 and then the public on June 11.

Simultaneously, Portland’s City Council is creating its municipal budget for the upcoming year. The city estimated it would have to raise it’s share of the tax rate by 9.5% because of a $20.3 million loss in funding. The increase would raise taxes by $486 to $540 for the owner of a median value home.

Portland’s overall property tax rate is the average of the municipal and school tax rates.

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