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Schools plan to restore land fund

June 15, 2005

Gradually, the Hood River County School District is finding its way back to land.

Land acquisition funding, to be exact.

A plan for restored programs and positions, known as “add backs,” following three years of severe cutbacks to programs and staff is expected to include $1.1 million for buying land for new facilities, according to district superintendent Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady.

One million dollars of the land fund would come from the $1.1 million in retroactive revenue the district learned in May it would receive, following revised State School Funding allocations from the 2003-04 school year. That surprise infusion of money came about primarily because of increased student enrollment and other funding formula changes announced by the Department of Education.

To support programs and prevent staffing and program cutbacks in the past two years, the district did away with its land aquisition fund, which three years ago totaled $750,000, despite the fact that the district was growing on a continual basis.

“We were looking to borrow money to buy land,” Evenson-Brady said. Enrollment projections by the Center for Population Studies at Portland State Univerity forecast growth of between 500 and 1,500 students over the next nine years.

The budget add-backs come about at a time when the State Legislature is still debating the state education budget for the next biennium, but the district felt the time was right to make budgetary plans, given the likelihood of an increased overall state budget of $5.3 to $5.4 billion, according to Evenson-Brady.

“We said we wouldn’t consider add backs until we really knew what the (state budget) money was, but with the unexpected add backs from 2003-04, felt we needed to look at the total package,” she said.

On June 8, the board did approve expenditure of $150,000 in upgrades to student computers, in order to plan staff over the summer to do the extensive work of getting computers ready for the next school year, according to Evenson-Brady.

The board also authorized advertising of teaching and other staff positions that are contingent on funding.

“Our concern was that if we did not get the positions posted at this time, we would get further and further behind in getting a pool of well-qualified candidates,” Evenson-Brady said.

In its next meeting, on June 22, the board will consider a package of add-backs prepared by administrators, including restored staff positions, and fully-supported all-day kindergarten at all six elementary schools. The advertised positions are three kindergarten teachers, an HRVHS teacher, two English as Second Language positions, and one Talented and Gifted program teacher.

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