Portland Superintendent’s Notebook: Budget will maintain focus on teaching and learning
In just one month, I will present my new school budget proposal to the Portland Board of Public Education. While we don’t have all of our numbers yet, steep increases in the cost of living and reduced state funding will make it a difficult road to travel as we plan the fiscal year 2023 budget.
Each year, our Portland Public Schools Budget has a theme. Last year, the central theme of the FY22 budget was promoting equity. The theme of our budget for the 2022-2023 school year is: Maintaining the Focus on Teaching and Learning. This theme communicates our clear direction and that this budget will strive to maintain our momentum towards our Portland Promise success goals, the whole student and people – all of which revolve around our fourth key goal. of fairness.
We are Maine’s largest and most diverse school district. Because we value this diversity, we have made it our mission to pay off student debt and bridge the opportunity gaps between our economically disadvantaged students (who are mostly students of color, English learners and students with disabilities) and our most advantaged students in Portland. (which tend to be white).
Our FY22 budget contained a historic $3 million in equity investments. These included hiring more ELL teachers, adding multilingual social workers and investing in multilingual family engagement specialists, increasing staff diversity and inclusion efforts and l expansion of our pre-kindergarten program. Over the past five years, we have invested more than $13 million in these efforts. Although significant, this is a relatively small part of our overall budget.
Our community faces financial challenges as we strive to stay the course.
We recently received our projected state and local contribution from the State’s Essential Programs and Services Formula, which the state uses to allocate education funds to Maine communities. Due to various factors in this formula, Portland’s share of public education funding for this budget cycle will be approximately $1.5 million less than what we received in FY22.
One of the main reasons for this reduction is that the EPS allocates less public funds to communities with high land values, expecting that these communities can contribute more locally to the education of their students. Portland’s valuation is extremely high, so our share of the state is less. EPS also allocates more money to districts that earn students. Instead, our registrations are down.
In addition to receiving less state aid, rising costs for all kinds of goods and services and contract increases for our Portland public school employees will help make this budget year another tough one. Finally, our debt service is increasing as we back up renovations to our four elementary schools that were approved by voters in 2017.
I am grateful that we have a school board, a city council and a community that believe in the value of public education and that make this education accessible to all. I am also grateful that we have significant federal coronavirus-related funding to help us strengthen our efforts.
The public plays a key role in our budget process, which includes multiple opportunities for public input and culminates in an election referendum on June 14. We will begin with a Zoom public budget forum on March 7 to discuss our FY23 budget goals in more detail and answer questions. I invite the Portland community to attend. Additionally, I hope you will stay engaged and involved so that we can work together to achieve a school budget for FY23 that not only keeps current programs and services, but also capital investments at the center of our work.