The Portland Board of Public Education will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, on a fiscal year 2018 school budget proposal recommended by the board’s Finance Committee. The $104.8 million budget proposal is about $2.2 million less than Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana’s $107 million initial budget proposal, which has been reduced over the past few weeks to address fiscal constraints.
The public hearing will take place in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The 6 p.m. public hearing will be followed by an executive session. Immediately following the executive session, the school board will hold its regular business meeting, at which it is scheduled to hold a first reading of the budget proposal for the 2017-2018 school year.
The $104.8 million Finance Committee proposal would increase spending over the current FY17 school budget of $103.6 million by less than 1.2 percent. If approved, it would result in an estimated 2.5 percent tax increase.
To get to the $104.8 million figure, a number of cuts were made in the FY18 budget Botana proposed to the school board on March 7. The reductions include the elimination of some planned new initiatives such as new technology for high school students and additional resources to help increase the district’s math scores. The proposal also trims the district’s athletics budget by $42,000, eliminating some assistant coaches and reducing co-curricular and supply spending. Among other cuts, schools will see a 10 percent reduction in funds for such things as supplies and field trips.
Even with the $2.2 million in reductions in the proposed budget, district staff expenditure costs will rise 3.3 percent, with much of the increase due to escalating personnel costs, including a modest increase for adult education hourly staff.
“This is a challenging budget year for the Portland Public Schools,” Botana said. “Our district’s costs have gone up while our share of state education aid has gone down. The reductions we’ve come up with are reasonable ones chosen to have as little direct impact on students as possible. This FY18 budget proposal is a modest one that continues to allow us to provide quality services to our students, values our employees and is respectful of local taxpayers.”
Under the governor’s proposed budget, Portland’s share of state of aid is down $2 million from the current year’s allocation. The Legislature is still debating the state budget, and the proposal recommended by the school board’s Finance Committee assumes that Portland will get an additional $1 million in state funds. That would still leave the district with a $1 million less than it received for FY17 budget.
“We continue to work with our Legislative delegation to ensure that the final state budget is more responsive to the needs of our community and lessens the burden on Portland taxpayers,” Botana said. Between fiscal years 2016 and 2018, the amount of school funding to the district from the state has dropped by $3.4 million or 20 percent.
In his initial proposed budget, Botana proposed a number of initiatives to help the Portland Public Schools take positive steps to realize the district’s educational goals set forth in the district’s new Comprehensive Plan. The goals are:
• Achievement: All Portland Public Schools students will be prepared for college and career and empowered to pursue a productive postsecondary path.
• Whole Student: All Portland Public Schools students will develop the skills, habits and mindsets they need to engage in and contribute to our diverse city and ever-changing world.
• Equity: The Portland Public Schools is vigilant in supporting each and every student's particular path to achieving high standards, rooting out systemic or ongoing inequities.
• People: The Portland Public Schools attracts, supports and retains talented and diverse people who use their strengths to achieve our shared goals.
Botana’s initial budget proposal allocated resources to advance the district’s equity work through enhanced English Language Learner (ELL) supports, student mentoring programs, professional development in trauma-informed programming and enhanced parent engagement.
Eliminating those initiatives saved $410,000. “I am saddened by the setbacks to our work to implement the Comprehensive Plan,” Botana said. “However, that is work that the school board and I remain committed to and we will explore ways to invest in those goals in the future.”
Botana encouraged parents, staff and other community members to attend the public hearing and give their input. “We value the voices of our parents, staff and community members to help pass a budget that ensures that all of Portland’s students have access to a high quality education,” he said.
On Tuesday, April 11, the school board is slated to take a vote to recommend a school budget and send it to the City Council.
To see a timeline of the budget process, click HERE.
Click HERE to view a school board April 4 meeting agenda and packet.