School Board adopts 05-06 budget, with $1 levy rate

June 25, 2005

School Board members looked at options within the Local Option Wednesday before deciding on levying $1 per assessed valuation to help restore programs in the 2005-06 Hood River County School District budget.

Board member Mike Oates cast the sole dissenting vote against Board Resolution 04-05/24, to adopt the $47.9 million budget and make appropriations and impose taxes.

The board chose to levy $1 out of a possible $1.50 per thousand, under the Local Option passed by voters in November 2001. Oates had lobbied for a levy of 50 cents per thousand, which he called a “compromise” amount.

“I can’t personally support doing the opposite of what we said we would do,” Oates said, referring to district pledge not to use Local Option money for facilities or land purchases.

Hood River resident Dave Dockham, the only person to comment on the budget, told the board that levying $1 per thousand would go against the spirit of what the district told the community in requesting the Local Option.

“You said you would not use the Local Option for buildings,” Dockham said.

Board member Jan Veldhuisen Virk replied, “We said we’d restore the cuts. We did restore the cuts. Before that we had totally eliminated that (land acquisition) fund.”

Technically, the Local Option revenue, projected at $800,000, will be used for staffing and instructional programs, including adding back teaching and classified positions cut from the district budget a year ago.

However, the district recently came into State School Funding money totalling about $1.1 million, which the state allotted the district based on the 2003-04 school year. At its June 8 meeting, the school board decided to allot $1 million of that belated money to the district land acquisition fund, which had stood at $500,000 until two years ago when it was tapped out in order to sustain programs.

Including the state money in the 2005-06 budget enables the district to restore the land acquisition fund, and to make the payment of $400,000 for four portables, which the board approved in May.

But Oates argued that the district could cut the Local Option to 50 cents and afford the portables, revive the land acquisition fund, and restore jobs. One way to do that would be to pay for the portables out of the 2001 bond construction funds, which was the district’s initial plan before the infusion of the 2003-04 funds.

Board member Ramona Ropek stated that the budget as adopted “is an opportunity to invest for the students. People who live in the area want a quality school district.”

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