Ryan Scallon is superintendent of Portland Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

Portland Public Schools reached a milestone in our FY 25 budget process when the Board of Public Education on April 9 approved a $161.4 million school budget to recommend to the City Council. One of the things that I’m proudest about in this budget process is the amount of community engagement involved.

Since March 5, when I presented my proposed budget for the 2024-25 school year, members of the community, PPS staff, the board and council finance committees and the full board have actively engaged to revise and enhance the FY 25 budget.

As I have stated previously, I considered my $161 million budget proposal a starting point. Through emails and public hearings, the PPS community weighed in and the board listened carefully as they worked to understand and evaluate budget priorities.

The board’s final recommended budget includes 18 more positions than in my proposal, largely paid for by reducing budgeted expenses in other areas and a new revenue stream from billing for MaineCare services.

Just like my initial budget proposal, the board’s budget builds off a theme of centering students. It includes strategic funding for increased student mental health care, reading support, special education and school climate support at the school level. The FY 25 budget also supports increased rigor in the classroom and maintains funding for athletics, extracurriculars and class sizes.

The proposed budget is mindful of Portland taxpayers. We had to confront unique fiscal challenges for FY 25 in developing the budget. The loss of about $9.4 million in federal COVID relief funds and other revenues, relatively flat state funding and increasing expenses meant that the district started the budget process with an anticipated $19.4 million shortfall. Without any cuts, that shortfall would have necessitated a 17.41% increase in the school portion of the tax rate.


However, due to strategic reductions and restructuring, the board’s budget calls for an increase of 6.6% (49 cents) in the school tax rate. For the owner of a $375,000 median-priced home in Portland, this would result in an increase in taxes of $183.75 per year, or just over $15 per month. Previously, the FY 25 school budget was expected to result in a 6.85% increase in the school tax rate, but city property valuations revised as of April 1 brought that figure down to 6.6%.

To address our significant fiscal challenges, this budget entails some really painful trade-offs. We will feel those reductions. Overall, however, this budget is a fair proposal that centers students, supports staff, provides additional resources to schools and aligns with our emerging strategic plan – while being cognizant of taxpayers.

On Monday, April 22, the board will present its recommended FY 25 budget to the City Council – which sets the bottom line of the school budget. On Thursday, April 25, the city Finance Committee is scheduled to review the board’s budget and take a vote on recommending it to the full City Council. On May 6, the council will hold a first reading and public hearing on the school budget. Finally, on May 20, the council is slated to hold a second reading of the budget and another public hearing and will vote to approve a school budget to send to Portland voters on June 11. View FY 25 school budget materials and a budget calendar on the district’s website at portlandschools.org under the Finance Department.

I encourage everyone to continue to be involved and engaged and take advantage of these further opportunities for public comment.

Comments are not available on this story.