We are looking at a fairly bleak funding picture for Hood River County School District in 2014-15.
Supt. Dan Goldman announced Wednesday that the latest state school funding forecast from the Department of Education indicates the district will receive about $70,000 less than the earlier disappointing forecast – for a total of nearly $300,000 less than it gets this year.
That will not make it any easier for the district to make the projected $800,000 in cuts that Goldman announced last month would be necessary.
Goldman was frank about the situation in his report to the school board on Wednesday.
“For the past eight years, and most of the past 20, there’s been cuts every year; and it’s not just a list of things that were cut, it’s a scroll of things we used to have for kids and no longer do,” said Goldman, who was hired July 1, 2013, making this the first HRCSD budget he has been involved in creating.
Goldman said the usual call to “keep cuts away from the classroom” will be harder than ever to do. The proposed budget itself is still in process; Finance Director Saundra Buchanan is scheduled to give an update in the school board’s next meeting, April 23 at Parkdale Elementary.
The winnowed state school funding projection and the overall need for cuts makes the soon-to-start budget committee process a truly important one for the public to get involved in. The first meeting will be May 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Hood River Valley High School. It will involve an update on the process so far, at the administrative level to develop the proposed budget, and a time for public feedback.
The district did take a significant step Wednesday that will save money but also affect the overall school culture. School board approved a new staggered school start and end times for the 2014-15 school year. The administration studied the efficiencies that could be gained by staggering the start times of elementary and secondary schools.
Under the new start and end times, the district projects that the transportation department will need seven fewer bus routes and will save approximately $142,000 annually. The cost savings will come from maintenance and parts, employee salary and benefits and the avoidance of purchasing an additional replacement bus each year.
Schools will communicate the new start and end times with parents this spring and new route information and schedules will be published in August. All elementary schools will now have the same start and end time: 7:40 a.m. and 2:10 p.m. Both Hood River Middle School and Wy’east Middle School will start and end at the same time: 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Hood River Valley High School will start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m.
The district will continue with its late starts on most Mondays, which will mean that elementary schools would start at 8:40 a.m. on those days and the middle schools would start at 9:45 a.m. and the high school would start at 9:40 a.m.
It will mean a big change for some families, but it is good that plenty of advance notice is being made, and the district deserves credit for moving on the proposal, survey, and action in a timely manner that involved the community in the process.