On March 6, I watched with concern as Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana presented his proposed school budget for 2018-19, which calls for a 9.7 percent increase in the school portion of the local tax levy.

Specifically, I was troubled that his staff stated that similar increases in local funding will be required over the next five years to make up for commensurate decreases in state funding. So, are we really planning on raising the local school tax 9.7 percent every year for the next five years, for a total increase of 48.5 percent?

According to numbers provided by the superintendent (and parroted by his preferred local advocacy group, Progressive Portland), this increase will cost the average Portland taxpayer $200 this year.

Add that to the additional $200 annually that’s projected for the next four years, plus the $104 annual increase for the $64 million bond to rebuild elementary schools passed last November, and we begin to assemble a picture of unsustainable spending with no end in sight. Can we really expect the average Portland taxpayer to be on the hook for at least $1,520 more in taxes just over the next five years?

How do we address this? As a 2016 graduate of Portland High School, I have an appreciation of the programming demands of our public schools, and the continued downward pressure on administrators and teachers to provide more with less. We need to start with a long-term comprehensive plan for school spending that looks at projected infrastructure costs, projected increases in staffing and programming costs, and a serious proposal to consolidate schools to ensure that we are investing money in students’ learning and not unneeded infrastructure projects.

This moment demands leaders who are serious about creating a realistic, sustainable path for Portland Public Schools. That is what our students and taxpayers deserve.

Eamonn Dundon


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