Portland school budget of more than $125M in city councilors’ hands

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City councilors next month will decide whether to approve a proposed $125.2 million school budget before voters get their say in June.

The School Board approved the fiscal year 2022 school budget on April 13. The spending plan is nearly $800,000 less than the one proposed by Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana last month.

The board will present the budget to the City Council on April 26; the council is scheduled to hold a public hearing May 3 before voting May 10. The school budget referendum will take place June 8, when voters will also elect members of the new Charter Commission.

If passed, the budget would result in a 5.5 percent increase in the school portion of the tax rate. It would raise the overall school tax rate by 64 cents per $1,000 of valuation, which for a home valued at $250,000 would result in a tax increase of about $160 per year, or just over $13 per month, according to a press release from School Department spokesperson Tess Nacelewicz.

The existing school budget, approved last year, required no tax increase because of the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed budget focuses heavily on equity, with $2.9 million earmarked for equity investments, including more than $1 million for the district’s Lau plan, which aims to provide adequate services for English Language Learner students.

Nearly $400,000 would be allocated for efforts to support a diverse workforce, including a human resources position to recruit and support educators of color, and more than $300,000 would be allocated to enhance special education services.

School Board Chair Emily Figdor said she “very enthusiastically” supports the budget.

“I believe this budget is an expression of our values as a school district and as a community,” Figdor said. “It’s the result, really, of five years of painstaking analysis and reflection led by Superintendent Botana to understand how to address the deep inequities in our school district.”