“For a change of pace, I actually have positive news about our budget,” Hood River County School District Supt. Dan Goldman said Tuesday evening. “I don’t think I’ve ever said that here.”
So began Goldman’s report to the school board during its regular meeting Sept. 22, held at the district office.
Though the finalized numbers from the state won’t be in for the 2014-2015 school year until May 2016, as the Oregon Department of Education is “still in collection mode and reconciling spending,” Goldman said he is optimistic about the school district budget for 2016-2017 because of cost-saving measures the district has implemented over the past 18 months.
“I’m really proud of the work the administration and all our staff has done to tighten our belts and find creative ways to reduce operational costs,” Goldman said. “If the estimates hold out, for the first time in a long time we can make significant program improvements for kids. I haven’t said that in a decade.”
The district’s financial picture has improved thanks to a variety of factors, such as the staggered bus schedule that began in fall 2014, which Goldman said has brought “a nice savings,” as well as lower than expected heating and fuel costs, and grants for teacher trainings and substitutes.
“When we changed the bus schedule, I know we changed people’s lives,” he said. “But that decision was made to save teachers. We saved about $140,000 in the first year and are now realizing ongoing, sustained savings, which means we are positioning ourselves to hopefully add programs back in the classroom next year.”
Goldman also referenced major changes in the district technology program — with services being provided in-house instead of contracted out — and successful grant writing in the last two years.
“It’s things like that that are game changers,” he said. “We’re really turning a corner as we’re putting tight fiscal controls into the system and aggressively pursuing grant funding. Now we’re beginning to reap benefits for kids.”
To prove that point, the board accepted over $400,000 in new, competitive grant funding later in the meeting.
While the outlook is good, Goldman warned that the numbers are estimates and the district needs to be cognizant of future spending, such as looming PERS increases.
“The numbers from the state always move and change,” he cautioned. “I liken it to a roller coaster: up, down, upside down.”
But, he added, “no matter what happens at the state level, we still have opportunities right here at home to maximize every dollar for students.”
A financial advisory committee report will be out in October.
n Donations were accepted from Mrs. Sydney Blaine and Gorham Babson Family Fund of the Gorge Community Foundation to Hood River Valley High School for its robotics and engineering programs ($500) and from Hood River Valley Christian Church to Hood River Valley High School ($100 in school supplies).
n Grants awarded to the district by the Oregon Department of Education for 2015-2016 as of Sept. 16, 2015, were in total of $1,042,033.80 for a variety of programs, including fresh fruit and vegetables at Mid Valley Elementary during summer school, robotics at Wy’east Middle, and extended assessment tests for the upcoming year.
n Lisa Roberts, ASPIRE coordinator at the Summit Career Center at Hood River Valley High School, was nominated by the Oregon Student Assistance Commission (OSAC) — one of two for the state — and selected by First Lady Michelle Obama for a nationwide educator’s meeting to be held at the White House in October, focusing on breaking down barriers for first generation students to attend college. A story will appear in the News in the coming weeks.
n Two forums are planned for parents and community members interested in the state and future of HRCSD facilities. The “Facilities Planning Community Presentations” will be held Sept. 30 at Wy’east and Oct. 1 at Hood River Middle, both beginning at 6:30 p.m.
n Goldman and the board thanked volunteers who worked to put on three events within a week: Hood River Education Foundation’s Forever Summer fundraiser, the Gorge Kids Triathlon in support of elementary PE programs, and the first-ever Music Festival of the Gorge in support of music programs.
“I am really impressed with the number of district staff volunteering at those events,” said Goldman. “It’s really cool to see such involvement.”