More cuts expected at schools

Eight days of school or up to 11 teaching jobs could be eliminated under the proposed state School Fund Budget for 2003-04.

Hood River County Schools face a range of options that could include “days” and jobs, district officials announced Thursday.

The State School Fund budget passed by the Oregon House last week means about $765,000 in deeper cuts for the school district, according to Business Manager Gwen Gardner.

She based her findings on the budget passed last week by the Oregon House of Representatives and sent on to the Oregon Senate.

“Even though the House calls the budget $5.05 billion, the Oregonian and our professional organizations say the real revenue will only be $4.91 billion,” Gardner said.

“If the State School Fund (SSF) is less than $5.3 billion for the biennium, the school board will have to make additional reductions,” said Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady, Superintendent.

The School Board’s next meeting is Aug. 13, 7 p.m. (changed from the originally-scheduled date.) The board is not expected to take action at that time, Evenson-Brady said.

“At this point it is difficult to make any cutbacks before school starts,” Evenson-Brady said, with the exception of cutting days.

“That (cutting days) is the only one we could make before school starts,” she said. But on the overall question of cutbacks, “I’m not going to ask them to address it until we have a budget out of Salem,” she said.

Evenson-Brady said that examples of items to be considered in cutting $765,000 might include any of the following: cutting eight days of school; cutting all of the elementary Physical Education and Music programs and cutting 5.5 teachers; cutting all co-curricular activities at the middle and high schools or cutting between 5.5 and 11 teaching positions. Each of these budget examples costs about $800,000, according to Evenson-Brady. However, the board might choose none of the above, or a combination of cuts. (The district will make no changes in 2003-04 to the kindergarten schedule, which had previously been identified as an option.)

“We never know how much money we have to run our schools until the school year is over, because our funding is based on our total enrollment for the whole year,” Evenson-Brady said. “That makes our budgeting process totally an educated guess. Not knowing our state school funding until this late in the year, after the adoption of our budget, limits our choices,” Evenson-Brady said.

The 2003-04 school district budget was adopted with $1.3 million in revenue in a projected local option tax election. Because of uncertainty about the actual state revenue, a community committee recommended shelving the proposed local option tax election slated for September 2003. The School Board decided to take additional cuts if state funds were insufficient to backfill the items listed for the local option.

Further complicating the budget picture is the effects of $2.4 million in cuts previously made in the 02-03 and the 03-04 budgets. “None of these cuts will be restored with any SSF budget number currently being discussed in Salem,” said Gardner. Cuts already made in 03-04 included reductions in sports and co-curricular activities, teaching positions, school supplies, library and textbooks, technology, facilities maintenance and central administration. In 2002-03, cuts included summer school, sports and co-curricular wages, professional development, textbooks, technology, as well as the Land Acquisition Fund for a future elementary school.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski reportedly plans to veto the State School Fund at this amount.

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