May 28, 2005
A two-year-old breeze brought a cool million-dollar windfall last week to cash-strapped Hood River County School District.
Business manager Nick Hogan had the ironic task of informing the board that it now has a great deal more money to spend for 2005-06 than its members had previously thought.
The surprising development was a $1.1 million check from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) reflecting school support payment adjustments based on revisions in what the state owed the school for the 2003-04 school year.
“Never in my five years as a business manager have I seen anything like a $1.1 million adjustment in favor of a district — it usually goes the other way,” Hogan said in his report to the board Wednesday at Wy’east Middle School.
The adjustment was largely because of increases in overall enrollment and in the number of English as a Second Language (ESL) students in particular.
“I’m fairly confident we’ll have some additional money to address staffing needs, particularly ESL,” superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady said.
She called the funding development “truly unprecedented. Really bizarre.” The district now faces the challenge of how to spend $1.1 million it never expected to receive. The board will consider the question in a work session on June 8 in its meeting at Parkdale Elementary.
Hogan said funding adjustments are normally issued in October of the following year, but this one came early, in May, and as a surprise.
“At first I thought they actually made a mistake,” Hogan said. New people at the ODE finance department, combined with new software used to calculate payments to school districts.
The additional $1.1 million comes about for six main reasons, the largest being the 194-student increase in ESL students. The district receives $5,188 per student plus an additional 50 percent of the basic payment, to cover the added costs of serving ESL students. That came to an additional $503,236 to the district. The second largest funding infusion was $379,620 in standard per-student funding increase; the state raised the figure from the projected $5,112 to $5,188 for 2003-04. In the third largest category, pregnant and parenting students, the district was inexplicably projected to have no qualifying students in 2003-04, but it actually had 22. Multiplied by $5,188, that brought in an additional $114,136.
Overall student count went up from 3,715 to 3,726 in 2003-04; those 11 students multiplied by $5,188 came to another $47,688. Unanticipated increases in transportation grant funds and payments to cover high need special education students reaped another $78,000 for the district.
Fiscally, the adjustment is attributed to two things: First, it turned out that in 2003-04 there were one percent fewer students overall in Oregon. That meant a slight adjustment in money coming to all districts, and Hood River, with a two percent annual growth rate, reaped the benefit.
The second factor was the overall increase in property tax revenue statewide. With the revised 2003-04 numbers, and receipt of the $1.1 million check, the district’s total ending fund balance — the revenue it carries over from one year to the next — has jumped from $523,000 to $1,541,885. That is the figure the board will be looking at on June 8.
Hogan said that there was no indication of the extra money when he made his annual call to the Department of Education in January for a preliminary preview of the adjustments.