The Forecaster reported on a recent public hearing on the proposed Portland school budget for 2020, at which there was near unanimous support of a $7.2 million increase, more than 6% above the current budget, with a significant impact on tax rates. Naturally, the School Board endorses the entire amount being funded. This scenario occurs annually; unquestioned support, with comments that appear to “shame” anyone who dares to think otherwise.

Absent is any evidence of efforts to identify savings to offset increases, or consideration of potential revenue-sharing funds that might become available, or contractor quotes for school renovations greatly exceeding initial estimates, or the challenge of addressing other urgent municipal needs.

Only one dissented from this call that the City Council fund the entire request, suggesting that with such a large budget “there have to be ways and opportunities to decrease costs.” I agree. It is standard practice for administrators with budgeting responsibilities to engage department heads in setting priorities to avoid exponential increases

Agreeing to a modest 3% reduction in a $118 million budget (or $3.5 million) would be a valuable exercise in democracy. The City Council should suggest that the School Board try it sometime, starting with this budget.

Michael Beaudoin

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