Times of crisis call for solidarity and shared sacrifice. Working people and those most at risk should not be made to needlessly suffer when other options are available.

With that in mind, I noted with disappointment when the Finance Committee of the Portland Board of Education could not imagine ways to maintain services and annual cost-of-living increases for hardworking teachers and staff. Below are suggestions that city officials could implement to maintain school funding:

• Renegotiate contracts with top-level administrators, including City Manager Jon Jennings (average salary: $169,800), Superintendent Xavier Botana (average salary: $148,000) and other top-level staff, all of whom make over $100,000 per year. By taking a 25 percent salary cut and forgoing luxuries like Jennings’ $600-per-month automobile allowance and annual bonus, the city’s highest-paid employees could return hundreds of thousands of dollars to public education.

• Renegotiate existing tax increment financing agreements and recapture funds previously gifted to businesses like Unum; developer Capital, LLC, and Auto Europe. Many TIFs redistribute necessary funds to for-profit entities. Unum, which reported $12 billion in revenue in 2019, can afford to repay the money that Portland taxpayers generously allotted it.

These are just some ways Portland can avoid harming our public schools. Enacting them would begin to ensure that lower-paid city employees, all of whom will be putting their lives on the line when schools reopen in the fall, will not have to suffer financially. They are the least that highly profitable companies and well-paid administrators can do.

Thomas MacMillan


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