May 27th, 2010 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Schools, Legislature

Portland Public Schools on State Budget Woes: Substantial Staffing Reductions Are Likely

Roosevelt High
This week's news that there's another big hole topping a half-billion dollars in Oregon's state budget has landed hard on Portland Public Schools.
This afternoon, school board member David Wynde — chair of the board's finance, audit and operations committee — estimated in a letter to PPS families that the impact to the school district will be $19 million, the equivalent of 200-plus teaching slots.
Other lowlights of his grim letter include the prospect of cuts that "will likely include substantial reductions to staffing in schools" and "the option of cutting days from the school year."
"At this time this idea does not have a lot of support but we need to quickly think through all our options," Wynde writes of cutting school days. Here's his entire letter:

PPS families and community:

The Portland School Board's finance committee met Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the new state revenue forecast and the resulting $562 million in across-the-board cuts to state spending.

The impact on Portland Public Schools for 2010-11 is estimated at $19 million – the equivalent of more than 200 teaching positions.

Working with the Superintendent and her team we must act now to rebalance our budget. Our guidance to staff takes into account that our approved budget for next year already uses $16 million from reserves and that the forecast for the state's next two-year budget is also grim. There is also the possibility that the state's revenues will continue to drop, forcing further reductions after the start of the next school year.

With that in mind, the board committee directed staff to develop a revised PPS budget for next year that covers this $19 million by cuts in spending. We acknowledged that, while we will look hard at central office, these cuts will likely include substantial reductions to staffing in schools.

This is difficult and unpleasant but we have no responsible alternative.

It is possible that the U.S. Congress will approve further federal stimulus dollars, and it is also possible that the Oregon Legislature will demand a special session and adjust the burden of the state budget cuts.

Neither of these possibilities changes what we need to do, for two reasons. One is the depth of the fiscal crisis that we are now facing. We already budgeted the use of $16 million from reserves, we face uncertainty for the remainder of 2010-11 and we know the 2011-13 years are going to be very tough. That means any additional funds will be needed to replenish reserves in case we need to make mid-year adjustments, and to help reduce the cuts in those coming years.

Second is a timing issue: We have to act now to revise school staffing for next fall. It is going to be difficult enough at this time, and delay in the hope of a rescue by the Congress or legislature would be unwise.

We will discuss the option of cutting days from the school year. At this time this idea does not have a lot of support but we need to quickly think through all our options.

PPS staff have responded with commendable urgency, and will help us share information and receive feedback, including public testimony, before the board votes on a revised budget.

Please let us know your questions, concerns and opinions by e-mail at budget@pps.k12.or.us or schoolboard@pps.k12.or.us. We will try to address them as we work to meet the challenge of this immediate budget crisis wrought by the recession.
 
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