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How would you balance the budget for Portland Public Schools?

This worksheet will allow you to set priorities, make the spending trade-offs and establish an overall plan for balancing the Portland Public Schools budget for the 2006-07 school year. Portland Public Schools faces a $57 million shortfall next year. The School Board and Superintendent have developed a two-part strategy: Netting $33 million from one-time budget decisions and making $24 million in cost reductions that are sustainable for the long run.

The $33 million net in one-year decisions may include initial costs and investments for initiatives, balanced by spending down PPS reserves and asking our community partners (state, city, county and business) to provide $21 million toward the shortfall. If our community partners fall short, the Board would consider cutting days from the school year to make up the difference. A shorter school year is considered a one-time option, however: State law requires a full school year, and allows school districts only 12 months to return to compliance if they violate that standard.

By marking the boxes below, you may decide how you would balance the budget, with savings balanced against costs, marked in red. At the bottom of the worksheet, the budget balancing box below will calculate a total and let you see how close your picks come to meeting the budget shortfall.

All dollar figures are in MILLIONS, and are rounded to the nearest $100,000. Some are estimates. This is just a budgeting exercise. The actual budget will present specific figures, to the dollar.

Support services include a wide range of support for schools, from school buses to purchasing, maintenance to curriculum support. Spending on support services has been cut repeatedly since the 1990s. These are options for further cuts.
You may select as many of these service reductions as you choose:
   Impact Notes
Cut administrative/support costs
Eliminate administrative and support jobs in Central Office$0.5 
Reduce mileage stripends and reimbursement for work travel$0.4 
Cut costs in half for off-site meetings$0.3 
Reduce spending on supplies, materials 10%$0.3 
Cut local and out-of-state travel by 50%$0.2 
On Fridays in July, close Central Office, staff take unpaid leave$0.2 
Consolidate TV services with city/county; lose TV broadcasting license$0.2 
Reduce professional services contracts$0.1 
Shave costs in procurement$0.1 
Reduce facilities costs
Eliminate even emergency building maintenance$3.0One-time
Reduce custodial costs. Clean schools, offices less frequently.
Clean daily, as now $0.0  
Clean two days out of every three days $3.0 
Clean only every other day $5.0 
Reduce IT costs
Replace no obsolete computers in schools $1.5One-time
Reduce direct school/teacher supports
Eliminate one-time "priority funds" staff in select schools$2.0 
Return General Fund teachers on special assignment to schools$0.2 
Discontinue teacher mentoring program$0.1 
Hold graduations in high school gym/auditorium$0.1 
Close central professional library, reduce research help for schools$0.1 
Cut transportation costs
Defer replacement of aging buses$0.4One-time
Cut school buses not required by law; change school schedules to increase bus effciency$0.4 
Increase bus efficiency$0.2 
Pursue state waiver to eliminate school bus service to middle schools$0.3 

Outdoor School: Sixth-grade students now pay a $100 fee for the 5-night program.
Maintain current 5-night program $0.0  
Move to 3-day (2-night) program $0.3  
Cancel Outdoor School for sixth-grade students $0.8  

Athletics: Athletics fees for high school teams are already $175 per sport.
Maintain current athletics programs $0.0  
Eliminate all high school athletics $2.2  
Eliminate support for some girls and boys sports teams $0.7  

Reorganize schools; close buildings.

Portland Public Schools operates schools with as few as 201 students, and as many as 1,820. Many schools were built to house twice as many students as they currently serve. By reconfiguring schools -- merging two adjacent schools, creating K-8 schools or making other changes -- Portland Public Schools could serve students more efficiently in fewer buildings. (Some may need to be closed because of lack of enrollment from neighborhood or building condition.)

Costs for building maintenance and administrative staff would drop, while slightly larger schools might offer economies of scale in preserving or increasing electives, music, art, PE and health, library services, counselors and support services. Transportation costs might rise, and some school families might choose other options for their students. In the first year, the sustainable savings from the reconfiguration would be offset by one-time costs of moving and facilities renovations.

These projected costs and savings are rough estimates; any actual proposal affecting schools would offer more precise measures of the costs and benefits.

           2006-07 2007-08
           Impact Savings
Continue to operate all current school buildings $0.0$0.0
Reconfigure schools; close 4 buildings $0.8 $1.6
Reconfigure schools; close 6 buildings $1.2 $2.4
Reconfigure schools; close 10 buildings $2.0 $4.0
Reconfigure schools; close 13 buildings $2.6 $5.2

Reducing teaching and other staff in schools: The school district provides each school with teaching and staff positions based on the number of students attending the school. This year, schools generally received one staff position for every 23.5 students, which they could use for teachers, counselors, librarians, educational assistants and other school staff. Changing the ratio would mean increases in average class sizes and/or cuts in the non-classroom teaching and school staff. Each FTE listed below is the equivalent of one teaching position.
Remain at staffing ratio of 23.5 students per staff position    $0.0  
Set ratio at 24.5 students per staff position; cut 79 FTE $4.6  
Set ratio at 25.5 students per staff position; cut 150 FTE $9.0  
Set ratio at 26.5 students per staff position; cut 217 FTE $13.3  
Set ratio at 27.5 students per staff position; cut 280 FTE $17.3  


81% of the district’s budget pays for salaries and benefits, for teachers, school and office staff. You may choose to make reductions that apply to all school district employees. Remember that employees have in years past made sacrifices, such as accepting pay freezes, or in the case of teachers, working 10 days for free in 2003, to help the school district during tough financial times. These changes would have to be bargained with the unions who represent most school district workers.

Control the costs of providing health care coverage. PPS now pays $829 a month for teachers, and about $779 for other employees. Teachers pay $76 a month in premiums, other employees pay from $0 to $92, depending on the size of their family and their health plan. The savings figures assume the new caps start mid year. Redesigning the health care plan coverage, employee co-pays or other options could lower reduce the monthly premium cost-shifting to employees. The full savings would not accrue in the first year, because the new health plan year starts in February 2007. These proposals are subject to collective bargaining.

        2006-07 2007-08
         Impact savings
Maintain current coverage $0.0$0.0
Lower school district's payments to $750 $1.8$2.7
Lower school district's payments to $700 $3.3$5.0

Limit wage increases. The shortfall projections include a 3 percent wage increase, covering both any cost-of-living increase as well as “step” increases granted to most employees based on seniority. These are not sustainable proposals in the long-term; the school district will have difficulting recruiting and keeping teachers and other staff if it falls far below the market.These proposals are subject to collective bargaining.
Maintain 3% overall wage increase $0.0  
2% wage increase only $2.2  
1% wage increase only $4.4  
Freeze wages for all employees $6.6  

Reduce early retirement benefits. Reduce early retirement benefits. Employees who have worked for the school district for 15 years and who are eligible to retire under PERS may receive early retirement benefits: Teachers and principals are eligible for monthly payments (collectible until age 62 or for a maximum of 5 years) and all employees are eligible for health care coverage (up to 5 years or age 65). Changes would affect only future retirees, and savings begin in the 2007-08 school year. School districts often offer such incentives to encourage senior teachers to retire, preventing the layoff of newly hired teachers. These proposals are subject to collective bargaining.
Maintain current early retirement benefits $0.0$0.0
Eliminate $425 monthly payment $0.0$0.7
Eliminate health benefits for early retirees $0.0$0.6
Eliminate both health benefits and payments $0.0$1.3


Funding from other jurisdictions. Partners at the state, city and county have proposed to provide funding to help Portland Public Schools and other school districts within their jurisdictions.

The City of Portland may provide funding, from increasing revenues, their reserves, continuation of the business license fee surcharge, or extension of the utility franchise fee to cellphones. Each of those would help all school districts in the city; the dollar amount shown is PPS's share. You may choose more than one of these options.

Impact Notes
Business license fee surcharge continued $4.0 One-time
City revenue increases, reserves $12.0One-time
Extending the utility franchise fee to cell phones $6.0One-time

Multnomah County may provide funding to the school districts within the county from its increasing revenues. $5.0One-time
State of Oregon officials have suggested increased funding for all Oregon schools from higher-than-anticipated lottery revenues or other sources. Funding from the state might require a special session, and is uncertain at this point. $4.0 
Portland Public Schools reserves in the General Fund now total just under 5 percent of its annual operating budget. Spending down reserves by $12 million would bring the contingency fund to roughly 3 percent, or about a week and a half of operating costs. $12.0One-time


The School Board could save money by cutting days from the school year, which means not paying staff during the furlough. Days could be cut in blocks of time, at the beginning, middle or end of the school year, or days could be cut throughout the school year, perhaps by closing on a certain number of Fridays. The savings range from $700,000 to $1 million per day cut, depending on the schedule. This is a one-time only option; state law does not allow a short school year two years in a row.

Impact Notes
Maintain a full school year $0.0 
Cut 5 days of school, with students back September 13 $5.0One-time
Eliminate 15 days of school, perhaps by closing school every other Friday throughout most of the year. $15.0One-time
Eliminate 15 days of school, by starting school at the end of September (savings are less because of the need to pay unemployment) $12.0One-time

Despite the budget shortfall, Portland Public Schools is moving forward with educational improvements, including efforts in early childhood literacy and full-day kindergarten, setting a rigorous curriculum in every school and reforming middle and high school education. Student achievement is rising at every grade assessed, in both reading and math. To continue the progress, the school district will continue on-going investment in strategic areas. These strategic investments cost money. You may choose more than one of these investments:
Core curriculum materials: replace outdated science, math, language arts and social studies texts, workbooks and teaching materials, some staffing to develop and support curriculum adoption. ($3.0) 
Allow 150 additional students to go to alternative schools, to get dropouts back in school, provide professional/technical education and maintain enrollment (and eventual state funding for those students. ($1.0) 
Create an Office of School Leadership and Accountability to support schools and principals and to hold them accountable. ($0.9) 

While this is not a scientific survey, and your responses will remain anonymous, it would help us to know who is responding. Please mark the statement or statements that best describe you.
Are you:
A Portland Public Schools parent.  
A Portland Public Schools student.  
A Portland Public Schools graduate.  
An employee of Portland Public Schools.  
A resident and taxpayer in the Portland Public Schools district.  
Where do you live:
Other area    

YOUR BUDGET CHOICES: Savings and investments

Your choices of savings and investments netted this amount: $0.0
Your choices which will require changes to current collective bargaining agreements $0.0
Your choices which can be implemented immediately without changes to collective bargaining agreements $0.0
Your choices which represent sustainable, ongoing savings $0.0
Your budget balancing choices that rely on one-time measures such as City, County, or State funding, spending down District reserves, or other one-time savings (the School Board target is a maximum of $33 million). $0.0
Projected shortfall for 2006-07 school year ($57.0)
Annual operating remaining (deficit) or surplus ($57.0)

Thank you for participating in this budget exercise! If you were not able to balance the budget, you may go back and select new options.

Remember that revenues from state and local partners are far from certain. Also, when completing this worksheet, it might be easy to rely heavily on one-time budget cuts and one-time funding. Relying too heavily on short-term funding means next year Portland Public Schools will be right back in the same place, cutting its budget as temporary funding ends. The Superintendent and School Board have set a goal of relying on one-time actions for a maximum of $33 million, as they plan to set a sustainable course for our schools and our students' future.

You may share your budget balancing choices by clicking the "submit" button below. Your ideas will help inform the discussion as the Superintendent and School Board make their budget decisions.


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