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School budgets lay out good, bad and ugly

• Proposals show stark differences, depending on whether voters OK tax boost

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Jim Scherzinger on Monday laid out two futures for Portland schools.

One future Ñ based on the assumption that Multnomah County voters reject a proposed temporary income tax increase on May 20 Ñ shows a system with 600 fewer teachers and class sizes of 35 to 40 students, and with no district funding for high school athletics.

The other future Ñ which assumes voters approve the tax increase Ñ shows a relatively stable system with only a few cuts.

School district officials released a draft of Scherzinger's budget message Monday afternoon, hours before he was scheduled to deliver his budget recommendation for next year to the Portland school board Monday night.

Scherzinger's formal budget recommendation was delayed by several weeks because of budget changes that needed to be made after school district leaders and the district's teachers union reached an agreement on a new teachers' contract in February.

He was unavailable to comment on his budget message Monday afternoon. But his message highlights how much district leaders are relying on the proposed county income tax to restore some stability to the district's budget.

'The question is whether we're going to be able to provide to the students of Portland Public Schools a basic level of services Ñ things that parents and the community expect from the schools,' said school board member Julia Brim-Edwards, who sits on the board's budget committee.

City and county leaders decided in March to refer the temporary income tax increase to county voters in May to try to alleviate cuts that otherwise would need to be made to local social services, public safety and schools. The proposal calls for a 1.25 percent increase in personal income taxes of county residents Ñ an increase of about $252 per year for someone with $30,000 in Oregon taxable income after deductions, according to county officials.

The tax increase would raise about $135 million annually for the next three years, about three-quarters of which would go to local school districts.

Portland Public Schools would receive about $51 million per year from the local income tax increase and another $6 million from a local business income tax surcharge.

If voters reject the income tax increase, the Portland school district's general fund budget next year, largely made up of local property taxes and state income taxes, would be $337 million. That compares to its $360 million budget for the fiscal year that ends this June.

If voters approve the income tax increase, next year's school district budget would be about $392 million, according to district officials, with most cuts focused on administration.