School budget approved but cuts on the way

The District 55 School Board Monday adopted a budget for 2010-11 but made it clear that it plans to implement a $1.1 million list of cuts during the budget year.

By consensus the board decided to hold off formally approving the list of cuts until its July 12 meeting, just after the beginning of the fiscal year on June 30.

The list of cuts can change if state or federal governments provide cash to backfill unexpected revenue reductions and if the unions and board come to an agreement on cutting school days next year.

The cuts include reductions in staffing, transfers to reserve funds, the school resource police officer, sports, supplies and textbooks and other services.

“You could put this list on hold until the July meeting,” said Supt. Larry Horton. “If there is going to be a federal bailout we may know by then. We may not. There is no hurry to have this list done tonight. I want this to be a quality process. Holding off till the July meeting probably makes good sense.”

At this point, by board consensus, the cuts list will return to district administrators for a recommendation on priorities. The district will meet with the teachers and classified unions to cut five days. Five days of cuts would save the district about $325,000, allowing the district to remove that much in cuts from its reduction list.

In the meantime, other things may change if the state frees up reserve funds and backfills some of the shortfall or the federal government bails out the state as it did last year.

Waiting to formally approve the reductions list allows the district time to negotiate a reduction in the number of days as well as finding out about possible alternative funding.

The district can cut up to five days without receiving a waiver from the state, Horton said. The waiver cannot be used more than one year in a row.

“There is a general feeling among our staff that four days could be reduced next year, saving approximately $260,000,” Horton said.

The reductions list has changed over the past week. It now contains 24 items. Off the table is closing the pool, a cut that helped draw some 130 people to a public meeting with the district Budget Committee last week.

The district is hoping to save at least $15,000 on the pool with help from the city of Sweet Home.

Horton recognized a contingent of pool supporters at Monday night’s regular board meeting.

“You can see that we did listen,” Horton said. “And under pool expenditures, instead of saving $75,000, we’re looking at saving only $15,000.”

Horton asked the City Council to fund the pool through the summer, about $34,000, at the council’s regular meeting on June 8. Horton told the council he believed the board would continue to fund the pool through November to get an aquatics district on the ballot, creating a special district to operate the pool

The council decided to wait on answering until its budget process is complete at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, allowing them the possibility of inter-fund transfers to pay for the pool.

“I asked whatever help you can give us toward covering the cost of this $34,000 I would appreciate it,” Horton told the pool supporters and board Monday night. “I am hoping they will give us 15,000 to help run the pool during the summer, between $15,000 and $34,000.

“We heard you. We want to give you time to try and get an aquatics district into the community.”

The pool has had tremendous support from people who want to try to create an aquatics district, Horton said. Twelve people have said they would serve on an aquatics district committee.

If the community does approve an aquatics district, the district would be able to shift the entire cost of the pool to the new district, Horton said. There are no guarantees that would happen, which means that if it accepts the proposed reductions list in July, the district would be guaranteeing to cover the pool until the community votes on an aquatics district.

If the community doesn’t approve the district, he didn’t think the board would have any choice but to cut the pool, Horton said.

The list now includes two teacher reductions based on enrollment projections, a savings of about $120,000. The Foster position is currently vacant, and the junior high position was a new teacher in the current budget.

Without the new teacher at the junior high, class sizes will rise to around 35 in world history. Science and language arts will rise to about 30.

That will last for about a year as a smaller class enters the junior high, Horton said, then the class sizes will return to normal levels.

The new list preserves junior high sports.

The junior high is already a slim program, Horton said. It generally has one coach per program, and the junior high officials asked the board not to eliminate the program. High school officials think they can eliminate non-league makeup games and decrease travel to meet the $15,000 in sports reductions.

In other business, the School Board:

Accepted the resignation of Rachel Barton, a .25 FTE ELL teacher at Sweet Home High School.

Hired Margaret Lindley, SHHS language arts and social studies.

Approved a leave of absence for Oak Heights teacher Marci Sullens for 2010-11.

Accepted and appropriated funds from the Chintimini Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation for $7,410 to be used for the talented and gifted programs.

Declared two vehicles surplus, including a 1985 Suburban and a 1994 Suburban.

Accepted the retirement of district Nurse Jane Bubak and hired her back on contract for 2010-11.

Accepted and appropriated a $4,840 Lowe’s Education Grant for the junior high art program.

Accepted the donation of computer equipment from Aric Anderson, including six computers and two monitors.

Accepted a the donation of $1,500 from the Weyerhaeuser WAVES program to be used for the SAFE Party and Forestry Club. It will be split evenly.

Approved a leave of absence for junior high math teacher Ted Drummond for 2010-11.

Approved year-end adjustments to the 2009-10 budget.

Approved changes to the Accounting Procedures Manual.

Accepted the resignation of Dianna (DeeDee) Looney, kindergarten at Foster.

Hired health teacher and basketball Coach Kostanty Knurowski as half-time athletic director at SHHS.