Public Service: Portland School Budget

Jim Cohen helped establish a partnership with the Portland Public Schools to improve the school budget process.

The entries below highlight Jim's efforts to improve school budgeting:

  • Jim served as a trustee of the Maine Public Spending Research Group, and as part of his service, focused on ways that school systems could become more efficient. Jim delivered a presentation to GrowSmart on this topic.
  • He served as the primary draftsperson of the Maine Plan in 2004, a citizen initiative aimed at establishing spending limits at all levels of government. Jim helped form a coalition between business leaders and municipal government officials which ultimately led the Maine Legislature in 2005 to adopt many of the elements of the plan as part of LD 1. Jim spoke about the Maine Plan at a 2005 Maine Water Utilities Association Meeting.
  • In 2006-7, Jim became the chair of the City's finance committee. During his tenure, he facilitated extensive public discussion regarding the proposed school budget, the largest in the City's history. During the process, Jim worked to improve the relationship between the City Finance Committee and the School Finance Committee to better evaluate the school budget.
    -Jim addresses school budget issues, among other topics, in an interview with The League of young Voters.
    -Upon deciding to leave the City Council, Jim's accomplishments as a member of the Finance Committee were reviewed by the Portland Press Herald
  • In 2007, the public discovered that the School Budget was inaccurate, leading to the resignation of the Superintendent and Finance Director. Jim worked with the School Finance Committee to develop a memorandum of understanding to improve the meetings , information gathering and relationship between the City Council and School Committee. This led to a collaborative budget in 2008 that helped restore public trust in the school system.
  • In 2009-10, Jim served on the Portland Charter Commission, and helped draft and get passed changes to the City's charter that formalized the process established by the memorandum of understanding. These changes were approved by the voters in November 2010.