April 13, 2023
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
Daffodils are blooming, the days are warmer and we’re about to begin April break. These are all clear signs that we’ve turned the corner and spring is finally here.
This also is school budget season, and we marked a milestone in the annual budget process this week: The Portland Board of Public Education voted on Tuesday to approve a $143.8 million school budget for the 2023-2024 school year to send to the City Council.
The Board’s recommended budget builds off a theme of “Strengthening Academics, Behavioral Health and Operational Systems.” This theme summarizes the district’s three key priorities for the budget for the coming school year: Maintaining the commitment to the Portland Promise goals of Achievement, Whole Student and People – all intertwined with the fourth central goal of Equity; being responsive to the needs of all students, especially those newly learning English; and improving operational effectiveness in such areas as finance and human resources.
The Board’s FY24 budget also is cognizant of Portland taxpayers. The district recently learned it would receive an additional $3.6 million in state education aid and would realize about $400,000 in savings from health insurance rates that came in lower than anticipated. The Board’s budget uses more than $1 million of those funds to reduce the impact on local taxpayers. The budget calls for a 6 percent school tax rate increase, down from the 7 percent increase originally proposed March 14.
The Board’s budget uses the additional revenues to preserve core programming. Also, a number of decisions during this FY24 budget process have been made with an eye toward managing the challenging budget outlook for the FY25 budget, when we no longer have the federal COVID-related funds that are helping to meet some of our current needs.
That 6 percent increase would raise the overall school tax rate by nearly 43 cents, for a total rate of approximately $7.48 per $1,000 valuation. It would increase the annual tax bill for the median family home in Portland (valued at $375,000) by just over $159 per year, or approximately $13.25 per month. You can learn more specifics about this budget on our website HERE.
At a time of high inflation and escalating costs, developing this budget has been incredibly challenging. It is the result of many weeks of hard work on the part of the Board and district and school leaders and staff. It has been informed by many emails, messages and comments from all of you about what is important. Unfortunately, fiscal constraints mean that many requests did not make it into this budget, but we believe the Board’s budget is a balanced and responsible one. It invests in all our students, including our newly arrived multilingual learners, provides fair compensation for our hardworking staff and shores up our core operations, including finance and human resources, while being mindful of taxpayers.
We have reached a key step in the budget process and your engagement continues to be essential. The Board will present their recommended budget to the Council on April 24. Then the Council, which sets the bottom line of the school budget, will review the budget before taking a final vote on it on May 15 to send it out to Portland voters on June 13. Please continue to stay engaged during this time to ensure we will have a 2023-2024 school budget that supports our Portland Promise goals.
In the meantime, we would like to use this letter to give a shout-out to some deeply valued members of the Portland Public Schools community.
April 16-22 is National Volunteer Week and April 20 is Volunteer Recognition Day. Our volunteers enhance the work of our regular staff by helping our students succeed and are a force in building a stronger Portland Public Schools community. We would like to take this opportunity to celebrate and thank all our volunteers. Also, our school community coordinators manage the volunteer programs at our schools, and we’ll note that the additional state subsidy the district will receive allows the Board’s recommended budget to restore our community coordinator positions back in the budget instead of eliminating them. We are relieved and grateful to be able to retain this team. They are pivotal to our ability to partner with so many wonderful volunteers in our community, who expand what our students can access within and beyond the classroom.
April 23-29 is Administrative Professionals Week and April 26 is Administrative Professionals Day. This is the time of year to recognize and celebrate the work of secretaries, administrative assistants and other office professionals for their contributions. Central Office and all our schools and facilities simply could not function without the support these essential staff provide day after day. Thank you to all our administrative professionals. We couldn’t do it without you!
We’ll close by wishing everyone an enjoyable and restorative April break!
Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Interim Co-Superintendents