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Council Approves FY25 School Budget

The City Council voted unanimously on May 20 to approve the FY25 budget recommended by the Portland Board of Public Education. The vote now sends the budget for the 2024-2025 school year to Portland voters on June 11.

The budget builds off a theme of “Centering Students.” It balances fiscal constraints with strategic funding for increased student mental health, reading support, special education and school climate support at the school level. The FY25 budget also supports increased rigor in the classroom, and maintains funding for athletics, extracurriculars and class sizes.

It's also mindful of Portland taxpayers in the face of unique fiscal challenges for FY25: the loss of about $9.4 million in federal COVID relief funds and other revenues, relatively flat state funding and increasing expenses. 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% ($0.49) 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.

“We are grateful to the City Council and the mayor for their unanimous support of this budget,” said Board Chair Sarah Lentz and Superintendent Ryan Scallon in a joint statement. “In the face of daunting fiscal challenges, this budget is as responsive as possible to the needs of our students, staff and families, while also keeping in mind the concerns of taxpayers. Portland voters have consistently shown at the polls each year that they value a quality public education for our City’s children and we hope they turn out again June 11 to support this fair and responsible budget.”

Prior to the vote, the Council held a final public hearing on the budget proposal, during which four members of the public spoke. All urged councilors to pass the budget in full.

Mayor Mark Dion praised the efforts of Scallon and the Board to work collaboratively with the Council in developing the school budget, saying they functioned as “true partners in the process.” Councilors voiced similar remarks, including Councilor Anna Trevorrow, chair of the Council’s Finance Committee. “I think education is the greatest community asset that we have and returns the greatest value,” Trevorrow said.

This year, for the first time, the fiscal year 2025 school budget was presented in a more comprehensive manner, with all revenues and expenses presented, not just those in the local budget.

The FY25 budget totals $161.4 million, a reduction of about $1.7 million from the total overall FY24 budget of approximately $163.1 million. The FY25 budget consists of $154 million in the local part of the budget, with $7 million in non-local funds, such as grants and federal Title funds. The FY24 budget consists of a local budget of $144 million and $19 million in non-local funds. The Council on May 20 voted to approve the $154 million local part of the budget, on which the Council has the authority to set the bottom line.

The FY25 budget is a zero-based budget. The district did not roll forward its previous budget. Instead, the budget was started with zero and a new budget was built, looking at both staff and non-personnel and ensuring that they align to the district's emerging strategic plan.

To address the fiscal challenges, the budget includes sizable reductions. “While necessary, those cuts are painful, and we will feel the impact of each one of them,” Chair Lentz said in her budget memo to the City Council.

However, she noted, the FY25 budget is truly “a community effort.” During the budget process, which began March 5 with an initial FY25 budget proposal from the superintendent, members of the community, PPS staff, the Board and Council finance committees, as well as the mayor and other councilors, all engaged to help the Board revise and enhance the FY25 budget, resulting in a fiscally responsible budget that also meets the needs of students, teachers and schools.

The next and final step in the FY25 budget process will be the budget referendum vote on June 11. Budget details can be found on the district’s FY 2025 Budget page.  Go to the Elections & Voting page on the City’s website for information on absentee voting, polling places and more.

Watch the May 20 Council budget public hearing and vote on YouTube.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with more than 6,600 students, and it’s also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of 53 languages. Approximately 48 percent of the district’s students are white and 52 percent are students of color. Nearly half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.