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Superintendent Presents FY16 Budget Proposal

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Superintendent Presents FY16 Budget Proposal
Posted on 03/10/2015
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Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk has proposed a budget for fiscal year 2016 that calls for investments that strengthen the Portland Public Schools’ core academic program, stimulate progress for all learners, drive innovation, improve infrastructure and increase family and community engagement.

The $102,776,657 budget, which Caulk presented to the Portland Board of Public Education on Tuesday, March 10, also is cognizant of taxpayers. It contains an expenditure increase of less than $1.2 million or 1.2 percent. The budget would increase the school portion of Portland’s tax rate by 23 cents or 2.3 percent, adding $23 to an annual tax bill per $100,000 of value.

“This budget is more than just a balance sheet. It represents the community’s hopes and dreams about the future of our great city and for the future of our children, who are this city’s future leaders, job creators and workforce,” Caulk said. “It enables us to continue to chart our course to becoming the best small urban school district in the country by 2017.”

He said that despite fiscally challenging circumstances, such as declining state support for local schools, the school budget maintains current programs, staff and class sizes and invests in the district’s pre-kindergarten program as well as in professional development for teachers and other staff to improve student learning.

“This budget continues to build on the investments made in the FY2014 and FY2015 budgets,” Caulk said. “It raises the bar by ensuring that all students have a pathway to success by closing the opportunity gap that has persisted. It allow students reaching toward proficiency to get there faster, and for students who are proficient and above to be globally competitive.”

Caulk said his recommended budget “continues to put students and families first, invests in our employees through professional development and maintaining competitive wages, and is fair to taxpayers.”

He said, “This budget is austere and modest. We would have hoped for bigger and bolder investments, but we want to be cognizant of local property taxpayers.”

Declining state support for schools directly impacts the budget, Caulk said. To date, the governor’s proposed education budget cuts Portland’s Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding by $920,000 or 6.5 percent. Because the schools have limited capacity for generating revenue, the decrease in state aid impacts the amount in local tax dollars needed to support current education programming and services. “If our EPS revenue was flat-funded, the tax rate increase would only be 1.1 percent,” Caulk said. That would mean an $11 increase to the tax bill per $100,000 of valuation, instead of $23.

In addition, the proposed budget continues to carry the cost of teacher retirement. That’s a cost that the state had historically covered until it shifted that cost onto local districts in FY2014. If the state again paid the cost of teacher retirement, the school portion of a tax increase in Portland would be zero or even less.

Personnel costs make up the largest portion of school expenditures – 79 percent. Caulk said that in the past, staffing costs were an unbalanced driver in each budget. “I have worked to stabilize costs in this area by partnering with our union leadership to negotiate contracts that align with our Comprehensive Plan, are fair to our hardworking employees and also are fair to our taxpayers,” he said. The increased cost for personnel in FY16 is under $2.2 million or 2.7 percent.

The budget includes funding for an expanded pre-kindergarten program, adding another class and shifting the cost of the pre-K program, which had been funded by a one-year grant, to the budget. The program is proving to be key to student success, Caulk said. “We now know from longitudinal data that kids who have been in the pre-kindergarten program outperform their peers in first grade,” he said.

The budget also invests in professional development for teachers and staff. “They will be able to sharpen their focus on student learning and develop their instructional skills through teacher collaboration, trainings conducted by both local and national experts, and other professional opportunities,” Caulk said.

Caulk said his budget reflects input from the public and staff. “We sought community input on the budget by holding a Town Hall meeting in January, having an online Budget Toolkit on our website and issuing an internal staff survey,” he said. “We value the input from our parents, staff and community members.”

As a way to continue to engage families and other community members in budget season and beyond, the Portland Public Schools also has redesigned Let’s Talk Portland, the online feedback tool launched last year that is available to the community 24/7, so that it better aligns with the community’s needs. The district also has redesigned its website to better serve schools and the community, and district administrators meets regularly with Parent Teacher Organizations to discuss district priorities, decision making and planning.

The budget supports three overarching goals in the district’s Comprehensive Plan:

•           All Portland Public Schools students will graduate from high school.

•           All Portland Public Schools will demonstrate college and career readiness in the areas of academics, communication and critical thinking.

•           All Portland Public Schools students will participate in activities that demonstrate service to our community, individual creativity and physical wellness.

After Caulk presented his budget to the School Board, the board accepted it and referred it to the board’s Finance Committee.