City residents got their first chance Monday to weigh in on next year’s $161.4 million Portland school budget, with four of five who spoke urging the City Council to approve it.

Monday night marked the first reading of the proposal and the first opportunity for public comment. Councilors did not discuss the budget Monday, but will do so prior to the council vote in two weeks.

Lara Rosen, who has a third-grader at Rowe Elementary School, praised the school board for a transparent and collaborative process and urged the council to approve the plan.

“While I am grateful for the budget (the school board) approved … I also want to emphasize that this budget represents the floor of what is needed to meet the needs of our students, staff and community,” she said. She urged the council to look for other revenue streams to mitigate property tax increases rather than cutting school spending.

Kristina Knight, who has a first-grader in the Portland Public School system, also spoke in favor of the proposal.

“This budget is critical to ensure that the Portland public school system continues to be a vibrant place where all of our students thrive,” she said.


Steven Scharf, the only person who spoke against the plan, told councilors that he though too much money was being allocated to food services. He asked councilors to vote it down and do more to reduce property tax increases.

After a tough budget season during which the city has struggled to limit tax increases in the upcoming year, the school board in early April approved a $161.4 million budget for the 2024-25 school year. The plan would require a tax increase of 6.6% and eliminate around 10 positions.

The proposed increase in the schools portion of the property tax rate would result in an annual tax increase of $245 on a $500,000 home.

Portland’s overall property tax rate is the average of the municipal and school tax rates. The city and school board set their budgets and resulting tax rates, both of which must be approved by the City Council. The school budget also is sent to voters for approval.

For budget year 2024, property owners saw a 5.9% tax increase, the average of the city’s 6.1% tax increase and the school district’s 5.7% tax increase.

Ahead of the meeting three letters from the public were submitted in support of the proposed budget.

“Portland is truly a unique and inclusive school system that deserves more resources,” wrote Anna and Chris Cohen, who have two young kids in the school system. They urged the council to approve the budget. 

Damon Yakovleff also wrote in support of the budget, but still expressed concern over property tax hikes. “While I do hope you advance the School Budget to voters as approved by the Board, I hope you will also consider additional measures to blunt impacts from the increases in property taxes,” he wrote. 

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