PORTLAND — Arguing that investing in public education is of critical importance, nearly everyone who spoke at a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2020 school budget Monday urged the City Council to support the entire amount the School Board is requesting.

If the $263.3 million municipal budget and $117.8 million school spending plan are approved as proposed, taxpayers could see a 94-cent increase in the overall tax rate.

Under that scenario, the current tax rate would increase from $22.48 per $1,000 of valuation to $23.42, according to information provided to the council by the city’s Finance Department.

The City Council is set to hold a final vote on both spending packages at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 20. Voters must approve the school budget in a June 11 referendum.

In the meantime, the public will get another chance to share their thoughts on the combined budget when the City Council’s Finance Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in council chambers at City Hall.

On Monday there was little to no comment on the municipal budget. But people had plenty to say in support of the school budget, which received the unanimous support of the School Board at its April 8 meeting.

The $117.8 million school budget represents a $7.2 million increase in spending, with $2.6 million of that going toward new programs that support Portland Promise, the school district’s new strategic plan, according to Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana.

Under the proposed school spending plan, the School Department would take the first steps toward providing universal pre-kindergarten in the city’s schools and would focus on providing behavioral health supports for students, as well as introducing initiatives to close the achievement gap.

School Board Chairman Roberto Rodriguez spoke in favor of the budget Monday, saying he’s proud of the vision and the advances the spending package takes toward implementing the goals of Portland Promise.

Rodriguez called universal pre-K a “game changer,” and said he hopes everyone on the City Council and School Board will work together to promote public education.

Resident Kate Whelan said she “strongly supports” the school budget and would “support even more robust spending,” arguing that “our students deserve better and more.”

Stefanie Hogan, another resident, said she’s happy to pay her fair share “so our schools can be top-notch. I hope you pass this budget with no cuts. A high-quality public education is critical to enriching the fabric of our community.”

Resident Joanna Frankel said she believes in the Portland Promise and called the $117.8 million school budget “a reasonable ask. I find it hard to imagine anyone would not want to pass this budget. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Kate Vaughn, another resident, told the City Council, “I strongly encourage you to pass the school budget with no decreases at all.”

Elizabeth Houghton added, “by investing in public education it will benefit the whole community.”

The only person who spoke against the school spending was Steven Scharf, who said with such a large budget, “there have to be ways and opportunities to decrease costs.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

School Board Chairman Roberto Rodriguez asked the Portland City Council Monday to pass the proposed $117.8 million school budget as is, with no cuts.


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