The Portland Board of Public Education voted 6-1 Thursday to approve a new list of reductions to next year’s budget proposal.

Even with the $1.2 million in reductions ordered by the City Council on Monday night, the proposed $110.6 million school budget is still about $5 million larger than the current budget.

The City Council gets final say on the school budget.

The board, which originally recommended a nearly $112 million budget, largely supported Superintendent Xavier Botana’s recommended cuts, which included a handful of teaching and educational technician positions, as well as trimming budgets for contracts and shortening the school calendar by two days.

However, the board reinstated funding to maintain a $31,000 contract with the nonprofit Opportunity Alliance to pay for a coordinator for its Foster Grandparent program.

Botana said he was working with the nonprofit agency to raise private funds for the coordinator position. But board members worried that without a firm commitment from the district, the agency’s federal funding would be at risk.

The board spent considerable time debating an ed tech position for the Cliff Island School that was among the proposed cuts and was not filled for the current school year.

Island resident Cheryl Crowley urged the board to reconsider. She said the current teacher is leaving and that one student has special educational needs. One person is not enough to cover an entire school throughout the day – students would be left unattended when the teacher uses the restroom, Crowley said. The school is expected to have three students next year.

“We are one of the last one-room schoolhouses,” she said. “Our students are just as valuable as any mainland student.”

Board member Lauri Davis voted against the entire school budget after the board could not agree on a cut to offset the ed tech position. “You’re making a decision about people’s lives and the future of an island,” Davis said.

In other areas, the board largely stuck with Botana’s recommendations.

The reductions include the loss of three elementary school teachers – a first-grade teacher at Hall and a second-grade teacher each at Lyseth and Reiche. However, Botana said in a memo to the board that the staffing adjustments “create acceptable staffing levels, while realizing some saving,” estimated at nearly $194,000.

Similar savings would be realized through the elimination of three electives teacher positions in the middle schools. Botana said reductions include family and consumer sciences at Moore and King and the consolidation of two separate technology electives at Lincoln into a single technology elective.

All three schools will continue to have music, art, physical education, health, world language and two sections of Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) course electives, Botana said before the meeting.

“I do not expect that there will be layoffs as a result of this, but it is too soon to say that with complete certainty,” Botana said before the meeting.

Another $183,000 is being saved by canceling two days of teacher training and eliminating two school days, which would put the district one day above the state minimum. The cut in schools days will save nearly $137,000 in salaries from non-union employees.

Another $100,000 in wages was reduced from Portland Adult Education – a figure that still allows for a $2-an-hour wage increase for instructors there.

Botana proposed a $68,000 reduction in the amount allocated for school supplies, which would have kept spending at $143,000 over last year. But the board reduced that by another $15,500 to fund the Foster Grandparent coordinator.

Although smaller than the school board’s proposal, the $110.6 million budget represents a $4.9 million, or 4.6 percent, spending increase from the current year and would result in a 5 percent increase in the school portion of the tax rate.

When combined with the proposed $247 million municipal budget, residents could see a roughly 3.8 percent increase in their property taxes, from $21.65 per $1,000 of assessed value to $22.47. That would add about $196.80 to the annual tax bill of a home assessed at $240,000.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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