By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,418)
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and School Superintendant Emmanuel Caulk, encouraged voters to go to the polls tomorrow and vote in support of the proposed school budget. Monday night, the Portland City Council approved the FY14 Portland School budget allocating $96,360,549 which represents a 3% increase in the school portion of the Portland’s property tax rate. Pursuant to Maine’s School Administrative Reorganizatiaon Law, all school districts must hold elections for approval of their budget.
Due to state cutbacks, the District had to contend with a cut of nearly $1 million in its FY 2013 state subsidy and subsidy funding at that lower level in FY 2014. In addition, Maine Governor Pajl LePage has proposed shifting a portion of teacher retirement costs from the state to local districts. That measure, if approved by the Maine Legislature, would cost Portland schools more than $1.3 million. The district also must cover tuition for city students who attend a new charter school opening in Portland in the fall. However, at that time it’s expected that only a handful of Portland students will that advantage of that option.
Superintendant Caulk told students, staff and teachers gathered at East End Community School on the Hill that “during tough economic times, character isn’t defined it is revealed. “And the character of our community here in Portland, is about pulling together to find our schools, to care for the future of our children and invest in the limitless possibilities that exist in every child.” Caulk listed what this budget does for Portland students. Some of them are: keeps commitment to providing a pre-kindergarten program, maintains the district’s programming in World Languages, art, music, physical education and co-curricular activities. “We are committed to these programs despite significant state revenue loss,” Caulk said.
The Mayor, whose mother taught school for 45 years and never missed one day of school, said: “Nothing we do is more important than to provide a quality education. I’m disappointed we had to make the cuts we did, but I urge you to support this budget….Lastly, I ask voters to vote against continuing the referendum. Each election costs the city between $13,000. and $15,000. Vote for the state to free Porland on this needless expenditure. I hope you students here can follow the example my mother set by not missing one day of school like her.”
One Fifth Grade student in the Gifted & Taltended Program at EECS, Charlie Scalia-Bruce asked the Mayor what were the benefits of the budget? The Mayor respondeds that the benefit keeps multi-lingual programs. Charlie who is interested in performance and theater opportunity at School was pleased at the Mayor’s answer.
Superintendent Caulk said: “We have a revenue issue in trying to get our Governor to be an equal partner rather than placing the burden on tax payers. Planning the budget on the backs of our students, school and administratgors is not the answers. It does not put students first.”