Portland’s five-year school budget plans for replacement of Hall School, eyes increase in state aid

The Portland School Board next week will review a 2012-16 financial plan that sets aside money for the replacement of the Fred P. Hall Elementary School and expansion of the recently opened Ocean Avenue Elementary School, among other things, according to a Tuesday announcement by the district.

The five-year budget draft, which was presented to the district’s finance committee last week, includes projected changes in revenues and expenses, some of which are significant. The plan predicts an increase in state subsidies for the district to the tune of $1.1 million in fiscal year 2013, because of property valuation decreases in the city and the impact that would have on the state school funding formula, as well as a $2.1 million decrease in federal revenues in the same year.

District officials are bracing for $800,000 in increased health care costs in FY13, personnel and payroll hikes adding up to about $1.5 million, and a yet-to-come mandate from the City Council that the schools put $500,000 into a capital reserve fund.

The multi-year budget uses a placeholder $97.4 million 2013 district budget, although Superintendent James Morse’s official draft spending plan won’t be delivered to the School Board until next March. That would be a nearly $5 million increase over the $92.7 million he first presented to the board last March, when Morse initially proposed cutting 80.75 positions.

On the long-term spending side of the 2012-16 budget draft, the district says it’s taking steps toward socking away $46.2 million over seven years for a slate of major capital improvement projects. Those include the replacement of Hall and the expansion of Ocean Avenue, as noted above, as well as renovations at Lyseth, Reiche, Presumpscot and Longfellow elementary schools.

The district announcement Tuesday noted that the system also plans to invest in improving literacy instruction from kindergarten up through 12th grade, standardizing math curricula districtwide, expanding pre-kindergarten availability, and increasing technology and programs for students with disabilities — although by how much money and when are not specified.

The district stated the full budget plan will be posted on the Portland Public Schools’ website once the School Board has given the five-year spending strategy its vote of approval, potentially at its Nov. 29 meeting.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.