Portland Public Schools board members shared concerns at a finance committee meeting Monday night about how staffing cuts outlined in the superintendent’s 2024-25 budget proposal could impact students.

“I don’t feel good about a lot of the cuts being in direct student support,” board member Nyalat Biliew said.

Last week, Superintendent Ryan Scallon presented a $161 million budget for the next school year. The proposed budget is $2 million less than the current $163 million budget and eliminates about 27 positions.

Although the draft budget is $2 million less than this year’s budget, the part of the budget covered by local taxes would go up by almost $10 million, from around $111 million to $119.4 million. The bump would result in a 6.85% increase in the school district’s portion of city taxes, resulting in an annual tax increase of $191.25 on a $375,000 home, the median house price in Portland.

The overall decrease is largely due to the end of a federal COVID-19 relief program that poured millions of dollars into school districts around the country, including Portland’s, as well as flat state funding.

The mood was grim Monday night as the board’s Finance, Human Resources and Operations Committee discussed the budget and listened to a presentation from Scallon detailing the positions that would be cut should the budget move forward as is.


“This process is incredibly painful,” board member Julianne Opperman said.

Positions that would be eliminated include custodians, human resources staff, assistants, instructional coaches, curriculum coordinators, education technicians and central office managers.

School board members zeroed in on cuts of employees who work directly with students and to programs that support the district’s marginalized populations.

They asked how those cuts would impact student-to-teacher ratios and already significant achievement gaps between students of different races.

“I am most concerned about eliminating systematic support for math,” board member Emily Figdor said, referring to the proposal to cut math coaches, who help implement curriculum and provide math intervention. Figdor is worried that the district will lose progress it has made in math instruction if it eliminates those roles.

Other school members said their most pressing concerns were cuts to programming that helps students gain life skills like cooking and connects them with internship and job opportunities, other student support positions and low wages for educators.



Although not ideal, positions are going to have to be eliminated, board Chair Sarah Lentz said.

“There are lot of things that I wish were different in terms of what we can fund and what we can’t,” she said. “But there have to be cuts.”

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.

At the same time, the city of Portland is creating its budget for the upcoming year and, similar to the school district, it is facing a tough budget year and anticipates that a significant tax increase would be needed to maintain city programs and services.

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

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