The Portland City Council got its first chance Thursday night to weigh in on the school district’s proposed $161 million budget for the 2024-25 school year, some saying they were concerned about the impact of revenue cuts on programming and staff, and others wondering if the proposal would ask too much of taxpayers.

Councilors, who will vote the school budget up or down later this year before sending it to voters, did not say Thursday whether they would support Superintendent Ryan Scallon’s 2024-25 proposal.

As it stands, the budget calls for a spending cut of $2 million from this year’s $163 million budget and would require the elimination of almost 30 positions. But it would require local taxpayers to contribute $119.4 million – $10 million more than this year’s $110.9 million – a 6.85% increase on the school district’s portion of the tax rate, or an increase of $191.25 in the property tax on a $375,000 home.

School district leaders have said the loss of millions of dollars of federal COVID-19 relief funds, inflation and flat state funding have made crafting a budget challenging.

Some councilors, including April Fournier, Anna Bullet, Roberto Rodriguez and Mayor Mark Dion, said they are concerned about the district’s ability to maintain certain tasks amid spending cuts. They worried about a reduction in education technician staff, money for supplies and central office staff.

Others were concerned about the tax increase the budget would call for. The city is also facing a possible 9.5% increase to the municipal side of the budget to maintain current services and fill all vacant positions during the next fiscal year because of a $20.3 million loss in funding.


Portland’s overall property tax rate is the average of the municipal and school rates. This fiscal year, property owners saw a 5.9% tax increase, the average of the city’s 6.1% increase and the school’s 5.7% increase. The total Portland budget was $261 million.

Councilor Regina Phillips said she would like to give the school district what it wants, but can’t say whether she would support the spending increase until she knows more about the municipal budget.

Dion said he has heard from many constituents worried about paying higher taxes amid other economic challenges.

But at multiple recent school board meetings, dozens of Portland educators and parents urged the school district to maintain programming and make sustainable jobs for employees and good learning environments a priority, even if it would mean higher taxes.

The school district will give a first read of its next draft of the budget on Tuesday and the school board will vote on the budget on April 9. The budget must then be approved by the City Council on May 20 before going to a citywide vote on June 11.

The joint committee will meet next Thursday to review the budget again and discuss the most recent audit of the school district and the city. The audit found continuing problems with the school district’s finance department during the 2022-23 school year, including a lack of internal oversight, documentation, clear procedures and checks and balances as well as issues with timeliness, efficiency and accuracy.

The district says that it has remedied many of those issues this school year by outsourcing its human resources and payroll systems and performing internal audits to find and remedy outstanding issues. It also says that it plans to tackle any other remaining issues this school year.

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