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March 6 Public Forum’s Focus is Budget Priorities

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March 6 Public Forum’s Focus is Budget Priorities
Posted on 03/04/2019
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The Public Affairs Committee of the Portland Board of Public Education invites Portland residents to a public forum on "Budget Priorities: Investing in the Portland Promise.” The forum will be held on Wednesday, March 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Casco Bay High School, room 200. The school is located at 196 Allen Avenue.

The forum will formally kick off the fiscal year 2020 school budget process. At the forum, the district’s budget team will present an outline of the “big ideas” – overall priority goals – around which Superintendent Xavier Botana’s proposed FY20 school budget will be based. He will present his budget proposal to the Board and community on March 19.

The priorities in this year’s budget all represent an investment in the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan, adopted in the fall of 2017. The Portland Promise commits the district to prepare and empower Portland students to succeed in college and career by working to realize four goals – Achievement, Whole Student, Equity, and People. The district has set five-year targets to measure progress toward each of those goals and strategies to achieve them.

“To deliver on the goals of the Portland Promise, we must continue to invest in it,” Botana said. “In addition to preserving current staffing and programming, our priorities in the FY20 school budget are expanding the district’s pre-kindergarten program, building our capacity to deliver high-quality core instruction and implementing a behavioral health continuum.”

The priorities in FY20 will build on the priorities of the FY19 budget, Botana said. For example, a priority last year was ensuring that resources such as more social workers were put in place in schools to support the mental and emotional health of students. “This year, we’re proposing a behavioral health continuum so that we have the supports in place that ensure that teachers can meet the behavioral needs of students,” Botana said.

The district was able to invest in some Portland Promise priorities in the FY19 budget, despite an extremely challenging budget process in which the district grappled with a drastic reduction in state education aid.

Anticipating additional reductions for this year, the Portland Board of Education established an Enrollment and Facilities Study Commission.  The Commission is set to deliver its recommendations for possible efficiencies ahead of the budget process.

The FY20 budget picture appears more positive. Projected state education revenues, based on Gov. Janet Mills’ proposed state budget, indicate that Portland will receive a small increase in state funding rather than the large decreases that were initially projected.

“We are hopeful that the Legislature will pass a budget with state education funding levels on par with what the governor has proposed,” Botana said. “The decrease in state education aid has meant that – for too long – local taxpayers have been asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of education. It’s unfair to put this burden on homeowners and renters, and we’ll continue to look actively for revenue solutions that are beyond raising people’s taxes.”