Portland school superintendent’s budget cuts 41.2 positions with $1.5M more in reductions due

Emmanuel Caulk unveiled his first annual budget proposal as the superintendent of Portland Public Schools Tuesday night, with many of the details being distributed to media outlets today.

Emmanuel Caulk, superintendent of Portland Public Schools (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

According to an announcement issued by the district today, Caulk’s initial draft includes $98.9 million in spending for the 2014 fiscal year, with focuses on maintaining progress on pre-kindergarten and adult education initiatives; increasing security at the schools with updated safety drills and the addition of a school resource officer; investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for high school freshmen; and adjustments intended to aid Portland’s growing immigrant and refugee populations by making the district’s programs for English language learners stronger and more effective.

But Caulk was also surrounded by financial constraints while developing this budget as well.

State budget curtailments of nearly $1 million in the current year’s budget and expected flat-funding in state subsidies for the coming year, a shift of $1.5 million in retirement costs from the state to local districts as proposed in the state budget for the coming year, $600,000 in largely new tuition costs to send Portland students to newly legalized charter schools, and steadily raising costs of payroll and employee benefits will squeeze the district dramatically in the coming fiscal year, today’s announcement states.

In response to those constraints, Caulk’s budget calls for the reduction in staff by the equivalent of 41.2 positions, and the superintendent says he plans to work with faculty and staff unions, among other stakeholders, to find another $1.47 million in spending reductions in the coming weeks. If the unions, including the Portland Education Association, don’t agree to additional concessions, the superintendent suggests more staff cuts will be necessary.

Said Caulk in a statement:

Personnel costs are the biggest single item in our budget. We are asking our employee unions to also make an investment in next year’s budget, so that we don’t have to make additional cuts that would be truly devastating to our students, staff, parents and community. We appreciate the unions’ willingness to make concessions in the past. We hope that they will step up in the next few weeks and help us close the remaining budget gap.

With the additional $1.47 million in reductions, the budget would come in around $97.4 million, still a 3.4 percent increase compared to the fiscal year 2013 numbers. But the district administration is quick to note that state aid to the Portland Public Schools have been cut by more than $3.5 million — from $17.6 million to a proposed $14 million in the coming year — since 2010. As a result, local funding for education — largely through property tax increases — has gone up from $52.8 million to $62.1 million over that same time period.

Another statement by Caulk:

I came here with a mandate to work with all stakeholders to build a world-class public school system for Portland, a system where students come first and every student has a chance to succeed. This budget reflects those priorities and the realities of our current economic situation.

Now, I suspect you’re wondering where the positions have been cut in the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget. You can click here for the entirety of the spending plan as it currently stands. But here are a few specifics to get you started:

The equivalent of 21 of the positions cut come from the ranks of teachers, including 6 jobs eliminated at Portland High School, 4 cut at Moore Middle School and 3 each cut at Deering High School and Lincoln Middle School.

Other staffing reductions can be seen, among other places, in human resources, finance and transportation.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

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