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School budget gets OK from committee

April 9, 2011

It really wasn't as easy as it looked.

The proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year was approved by the school district's budget committee Wednesday night with little discussion or last-ditch public input, a half-hour before the meeting was scheduled to end.

But there really wasn't much left to discuss after months of planning meetings, an early recommendation for potential budget reductions, three community forums and surveys to discuss those reductions, followed by more meetings to discuss that input, a new proposed budget reflecting that input, and a plan in place for any additional funds that may come the district's way.

"The budget process this year has caused stress on the staff, stress on the budget committee and stress on the board," Supt. Charlie Beck said after the budget proposal got the committee's OK. "I hope the decisions that we made this year can let us get back to the task of teaching our children."

The good news was that through the efforts of the Save Our Schools organization, an additional $92,119 was available for the district to work with. Representatives John Fine and Dee Dee Hennessey along with Mike Schend of the Hood River County Education Foundation presented board president Liz Whitmore with a representative check for that amount at the beginning of the meeting.

"I want to say to everyone who has come to the events and made donations and asked questions - thank you so much," Hennessey said. "It's been a busy nine weeks; and there are still fundraisers coming up.

"This isn't the last check," she said.

Also, the Hood River County Education Foundation has decided to focus more on raising money to augment school funding.

"The Save Our Schools campaign has sparked the Hood River County Education Foundation into making the endowment fund its number one priority," Schend said. "The Foundation is seeking to hire for the first time a part-time executive director by the fall of 2001 to take the Foundation to a new level.

"The Education Foundation has succeeded in awarding student scholarships and providing funding for innovative classroom projects through the teacher grant program," he said. "However, with Oregon school funding being reduced year after year, the Foundation's goal is to develop an endowment fund that could guarantee supplemental funds for the school district each year and enhance student learning and save education jobs."

The final recommended budget reductions for 2011-12 included the following changes from the original proposal, in response to the extensive staff and community input:

Add back all-day kindergarten;

Add back approximately half of elementary PE and music specialist positions;

Add back 5.8 of original 10 building-level classified position reductions;

Increase high school athletics and activities reductions from 10 to 20 percent;

Increase certified reductions from 4.5 to 5.0 FTE (balancing student to teacher ratios); and

Discontinue Dos Mundos charter school at Westside Elementary; maintain dual language programs.

The Save Our Schools and Education Foundation contributions allowed the following changes:

Restore 1.0 FTE certified position at Hood River Valley High School (a 3.5 reduction in certified staff instead of 4.5 previously scheduled);

Restore 1.0 FTE child development specialist position (if not grant-funded);

Budget $50,000 for instructional interventions materials and supplies for all grade levels; and

Set aside additional $50,000 contingency for possible "transition costs" (such as making Pine Grove School ADA-compliant), district-wide.

The budget proposal includes plans for add-backs to be made in case more state funding becomes available, as two $350,000 "trigger points."

If an additional $350,000 becomes available, half will be earmarked to restore the district reserve fund, and the other $175,000 will restore the two classified days voluntarily given up by classified employees and add back one teacher, with the $31,000 remainder to be put toward the most critical technology equipment needs.

If another $350,000 comes in, half will be put in the reserve fund and the other $175,000 will be used to add back one teacher, restore one maintenance position and put $22,000 toward technology equipment.

Now that the budget committee has approved the budget recommendations, the school board has until July 1 to approve it; currently the vote is scheduled to be made June 22, but "We would like to move that up," Beck said.

For more information about the 2011-12 budget visit www.hoodriver.k12.or.us or talk to Charlie Beck at 541-387-5013.

To find out more about the Save Our Schools effort: saveourschools@gorge.net. To make a donation through the Education Foundation, visit www.hrcef.org.

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