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Proposed Budget Keeps District on Positive Course despite $2M shortfall

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Proposed Budget Keeps District on Positive Course despite $2M Shortfall
Posted on 03/07/2017
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Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana has proposed a BUDGET for fiscal year 2018 that will help the Portland Public Schools take positive steps to realize the district’s educational goals while responding to a potential drop of more than $2 million in state aid to the district. 

In December, the Portland Board of Public Education endorsed four goals as part of 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 budget proposal retains core programming currently in place, including optimal class sizes and strong program options such as advanced high school coursework, world languages and comprehensive extracurricular options. The proposal also advances new district priorities by allocating resources to advance the district’s equity work through enhanced English Language Learner (ELL) supports, student mentoring programs, professional development in trauma-informed programming, enhanced parent engagement and adult education services. The proposed budget also intensifies the schools’ ability to provide on-site professional learning for teachers through a greater investment in teacher leadership and coaching.  

The $107 million budget, which Botana presented to the Portland Board of Public Education on Tuesday, March 7, is a 3.3% increase in expenditures from the FY2017 approved budget.  Most of the increase is due to escalating personnel costs. Implementation of collective bargaining agreements and state required retirement costs alone account for $3.2 million – 94% of the increase.

The increase, combined with the projected loss in state revenue, results in the school portion of Portland’s property tax rate increasing by 67 cents per $1,000 of valuation or 6.5 percent.

The projected revenue loss of more than $2 million is the result of the state Department of Education implementing the Governor’s proposed budget, which incorporates almost 50 changes to the state’s already complex school funding formula.

It is possible that the State Legislature may decide over the next few months to allocate more education aid to school districts. Because of this, Botana’s proposal also projected a different revenue scenario. If the Governor’s budget changes are not implemented, and the existing state funding formula is used, the district’s state aid shortfall would be close to $1 million. Under this scenario, the proposed 3.3% increase in expenditures would result in a 5.2% tax increase.

“We have been working with our Legislative Delegation to ensure that the final budget is more responsive to the needs of our community. We have been bracing for a reduction in the district’s allocation from the state. Portland taxpayers have been increasingly called upon to ensure that the educational needs of our students are met,” 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%.

Simply rolling over the existing budget to honor the district’s personnel commitments and also add new high school technology would result in a 4.5% increase in expenditures. To keep the budget at the proposed 3.3% increase, staff have proposed $1.2 million in reductions, half of which would be in salaries and benefits and half in contracted services.

Botana stressed that the proposed budget maintains and enhances current programming. “I’ve been impressed with the quality of the educational options available to our students. They have access to amazing staff, excellent programming and great extended learning opportunities,” he said. “I believe this reflects the desire of our community to provide a high quality learning environment for our children.”  He added, “Principals and district leaders have looked carefully at what we need to do to achieve at higher levels. Our focus on supporting our English Language Learners, increasing access to social workers and building our content area capacity are tied to district strategies adopted to meet our goals.”

The proposed budget involved input from school principals and district leaders over the past three months.  The school board, and subsequently the City Council, will review the budget and determine when it is ready to go to the public for approval. The district’s budget schedule calls for the public to vote on the proposed budget on May 9, 2017.

Botana encouraged parents, staff and other community members to get involved in the budget process over the next few months. “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 the high quality education that they deserve and need to be able to succeed,” he said.

View a TIMELINE of the budget process.