Schools face tough cuts in budget

A weak economy and declining enrollment have created the bleakest financial picture that Supt. Larry Horton says he has presented in 25 years as a superintendent.

“Together, these factors are causing major reductions throughout the 2009-10 budget presented to you tonight,” he told the district budget committee on April 20.

“Our general state school funding is being cut to levels that existed four years ago,” Horton said in his budget message. “At this time last year, the state forecasted that we would receive over $6,400 per student for the 2008-09 school year. The state is now forecasting that we may receive between $5,775 and $6,125 per student for the 2000-10 school year.”

The committee met again Monday night, April 27, and approved the tentative budget, but district officials are awaiting a state revenue forecast, expected May 15 and will then meet May 18 to see how their budget matches the real picture.

Horton told committee members that the budget has already trimmed district spending to the point that “there’s only (class) days and salaries left to cut.”

The district is projecting 90 fewer students next year than it had last year, he said at the earlier meeting.

In the proposed 2009-10 budget, the district will cut one teacher at Foster, Hawthorne, Holley and Sweet Home Junior High schools.

Sweet Home High School loses one special education teacher, one language arts teacher and its CRISS instructor.

Crawfordsville’s enrollment remains steady, and staffing will remain unchanged.

Oak Heights has had an increase in enrollment and will add a new teacher next school year.

The elementary schools will reduce one counseling position and 2.5 full-time equivalent PE teachers.

The district’s speech pathologist is increasing from .8 FTE to full time, which means a net reduction of nine certified employees.

The budget also includes the elimination of the school resource officer position, Horton said. “The program has been most successful, and if funds can be obtained, I recommend returning the program as quickly as possible.”

As of Thursday night, Police Chief Bob Burford told the city of Sweet Home’s budget committee that the final decision is still in question.

Other reductions include less classified hours in all departments and schools throughout the district, Horton said. Instructional assistant time has been reduced the equivalent of 40 hours per week district-wide.

All sites will cut their technology budgets by 50 percent, and instructional budgets have been reduced by 10 percent, he said. Discretionary funds are being eliminated with spending allowed only on emergency items.

Other cuts include $100,000 to the long-term maintenance fund and $100,000 to the early retirement fund, which is used to pay early retirement liabilities. The district also has eliminated the purchase of a new bus, a cost of $68,000.

Salary and insurance increases for all staff are included in the budget. The classified employees receive a 3-percent raise next year in addition to step increases. Administrators and certified will receive 2.5 percent. Horton elected to freeze his salary and benefits at 2008-09 levels.

The district still faces several unresolved budget issues.

First, the state has not set an education budget for the 2009-11 biennium, Horton said. The district built its proposed budget assuming a $5.9 billion state budget for K-12 education.

“Some state leaders predict money for Oregon schools could drop to $5.4 billion,” Horton said. “At this level, our district will receive almost $1 million less in state revenue for the 2009-10 school year than we budgeted, making even deeper reductions necessary.”

The budget also assumes that the state does not further reduce this year’s school fund payments, he said.

The district also has budgeted based on a weighted enrollment of 151 students at Sweet Home Charter School, a total of $675,000. The school receives 80 percent of the state funding, and the district receives 20 percent.

The Public Employees Retirement System is still an unknown, Horton said. Last month, PERS announced that its liabilities exceed its assets by approximately $18 billion.

The total budget is $30.55 million, down from $31.53 million last year. The general fund is $18.66 million. The district is carrying over approximately $1.65 million to the 2009-10 budget. That will be spent down to a budgeted ending fund balance of $561,000 in 2009-10.

The budget committee was scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss and possibly make a decision on the proposed budget. The budget committee recommends a budget to the School Board, which adopts the budget by June 30.

The budget committee includes 18 members, nine of them School Board members John Fassler, Diane Gerson, Dale Keene, Chanz Keeney, Jeff Lynn, Leena Neuschwander, Jason Redick, Mike Reynolds amd David VanDerlip; and nine members from the community: Brandell Bratz, Bessie Lovik, Michelle Marler, Jennifer Thompson, Scott Melcher, Kari Bennet, Steve Hiett, Andrea Hoffmeister and Billie Weber.