It always is one of the most traumatic events in the life of a community to lose its school, so Cannon Beach citizens are bound to be worried by the prospect that their elementary students must begin being bussed to Seaside.
District officials are grappling with a budget shortfall for next school year of $1.55 million and perhaps as much as $1.9 million. The higher figure will be the result if the Legislature fails to pass a gimmicky reform of the Public Employees Retirement System or PERS, the expense of which is beginning to constrain government budgets to an extent only now starting to become clear.
Seaside School District faces a downsizing of historic proportions. It’s hard to imagine the Cannon Beach closure, elimination of about 14 full-time equivalent jobs including that of the Broadway Middle School principal, plus axing middle school sports and reducing high school sports.
Other districts in the county and state are likely to face similar decisions.
Chronic underfunding and overpromising in the area of public worker pensions is a nationwide budget nightmare, one that will play out for decades. Steps well beyond any taken so far in Oregon will be required.
In the meantime, towns like Cannon Beach and Seaside pay the price in the form of constrained options for young people.
While citizens await genuine leadership at the state Capitol, what can be done to mitigate the damage?
The scale of cuts in the Seaside School District challenges citizens’ ability to effectively respond. Tax revenues are decreasing in the face of declining property values; monetary reserves are largely depleted.
At a minimum, these cuts challenge parents and other community members to step up volunteer efforts, perhaps to at least help keep sports programs going that are so important to the self-confidence and motivation of many young people.
On a grander scale, cuts like these should spark a wide-scale intervention by citizens in state government. If Cannon Beach is angry – and it deserves to be – it’s time to bus picketers to Salem. Fire up the phone calling and letter writing. Demand better answers.