Portland Public Schools learned Thursday that the city plans to cover nearly one-fifth of the district’s budget shortfall to help save 110 teaching positions.
Mayor Sam Adams called in his finance officials, as you'd expect for a city budget announcement. But he had special guests, too: superintendents from two city school districts: Carole Smith with Portland Public and Don Grotting from David Douglas. Adams told them the city should support the progress they're making.
Adams explained, "Now is not the time to reduce the teaching staff of our schools, and lose this momentum. So we have 'overcut' the city's budget in places, to come up with $7 million, about $7.5 million in one-time resources."
Portland Public gets $5 million. That's roughly half of what it'll cost the district to avoid cutting 110 teaching jobs. The city struck a deal with the district and teachers’ union to make up the rest. Superintendent Carole Smith says she's planning to cut beyond the nine million in administrative cuts she had already proposed.
Smith said, "Our principals will be looking at a three-day furlough -- so school-based staff, three-day furlough. And our central office is looking at a ten-day furlough, as a portion of how we are going to cover our two-point-six-five million dollar portion of the deal."
For weeks, the teachers' union has balked at accepting furlough days, in part to pressure Smith to make deeper administrative cuts. The president of the Portland Association of Teachers, Gwen Sullivan, didn’t say how her members would help fill the remaining gap now. The deal for Portland Public needs support from the union, from the Portland school board, and the city council to hang together.
Other Portland districts haven't been asked to make concessions in exchange for city money. Superintendent Don Grotting says David Douglas has cut 16 percent of its teaching staff in the last two years.
Grotting said, "We just settled our contract, and our bargaining unit made over -- both bargaining units made over one million dollars in concessions of benefits they will not receive.”
Adams' final budget as mayor focused on "direct services." In addition to teachers, it prioritizes police patrol officers and firefighters.
A big chunk of the 14 million dollars Adams proposes cutting comes from what he calls "back office" workers. The head of Management of Finance, Jack Graham, has a lot of those.
Graham said, "The cuts to core administrative services’ function are substantial. However, I feel that it is the right thing to do, to cut administration in order to provide direct services to our citizens."
The budget plan would also hit Portlanders in the wallet. Adams proposes a rise of more than six percent on combined water and sewer bills. But he points out that's a smaller increase than the bureaus requested.
All these pieces -- the $7.5 million for schools, the utility rate increases, the cuts to city administration -- are part of the city’s budget. It still needs approval from Portland city council.