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Portland Budget Collapse Claims First Casualty

Amid cries for blood, the red-ink-stained Portland School Department announced today that the schools' finance director, Richard Paulson Jr., resigned today.

It's unclear just what kind of "finance directing" he was doing while the school department spent $500,000 they were not allotted by the City Council, plus an extra $1.2 million, on top of $850,000 in money from other government agencies that just didn't come in. The total amount of negative figures on the schools' number line could be as high as $2.5 million. So out goes former Portland mayor Paulson from the job he has held since 2005.

One thing is sure - the buck doesn't stop with him. In fact, for the school department to claim that they overspent in part because administrators agreed to a teacher contract that gave more of a raise than budgeted for suggests that top leadership - that's Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor - is detached from reality.

Does any company actually not look at the budget when determining salary increases? Apparently, the Portland School Department does - they had budgeted for a 2.5 percent increase in teacher salaries, but agreed to a 3 percent increase. And here's the shocker - then they professed to be blindsided when that cost more than they had expected!

The school department's release about Paulson's resignation also said the schools had to pay "higher energy costs." But in 2004, students told the school system how to save $36,000 a year at just one school. And in February 2006, the schools were offered cash for being more efficient. As we reported exclusively in the Portland Phoenix, it took them until February 2007 to decide to get the efficiency ball rolling.

Sounds like something else should roll, and it's not Paulson's head.
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