District still in deficit spending


The definition of constituency is defined as the residents or voters of a district represented by an elective officer. A Sweet Home School Board member is an elected officer. Sweet Home has nine elected school board members, each one representing a constituency.

When a School Board member votes during an official meeting, should the member keep in mind his or her constituency? I can’t think of any elected position where this would not apply.

During the August School Board meeting, a vote was taken to give the highest-paid employee in the district a raise. The members voted 6-1 for a raise. Two members were absent.

Under Board Policy BBA, “Board Powers and Duties,” it states that the board is responsible for providing adequate and direct means for keeping itself informed about the needs and wishes of the public and for keeping local citizens informed about the schools.

During the 2011-12 school year, last school year, the funding picture delivered was a very grievous portrayal. The budget cuts suggested ranged from $800,000 to $1.9 million. I think it settled in around $1 million.

The four-day school week came to the front page for debate for months. It could be a cost savings for the district of between $300,000 and $400,000. A large part of the savings connected with the four-day week is in the salaries and benefits of the classified employees.

During the February board meeting, the four-day school week was approved by board action 5-3. Furlough days were added back. Other savings were made to plug the deficit. The ending fund balance was drawn down to the lowest I believe it has ever been. Sustainability at this level was a goal, but I believe it was not achieved. One-time monies were used again. Soon after the cuts were made, the budget forecast improved for the next biennium.

During the September board meeting, the administration and confidential salary schedule and proposal was on the agenda for a vote. This was taken off for further review. Look for it in October.

The Sweet Home School District does not have an excess of money. I believe we are still deficit spending. I believe any increase in pay or benefits given at this point is nothing more than redistributing the wealth. The budget forecast for the state that had gone up has since dropped some. The increase in Public Employee Retirement System costs will eat up some of the future monies. The savings given above will have to be proven.

To end my conversation, I believe everyone wishes this recession to be over yesterday. Public services are based on taxes. I believe the budget forecast is based on taxes from two years ago. Oregon still has a very high unemployment rate.

Disclaimer: This has been my personal opinion and in no way reflects the views of the Sweet Home School Board.

Chanz Keeney

School Board member