The Astoria School District budget committee will discuss the proposed 2006-07 budget Wednesday for the last time before it goes to the board for approval in June.

The draft includes an additional first-grade teacher and an extra fourth-grade teacher, as well as adjustments for increases in employee salaries and benefits, fuel costs and utility prices.

It's the first time in several years that the district will not be cutting staff positions, school days or programs.

"I think it's really exciting to have a budget that we don't have to make cuts in," Astoria High School Principal Larry Lockett said. "This is the first year we've made any real recovery. It feels nice to be able to pay for the programs you already have in existence."

Plotting out next school year's budget has been "full of ups and downs," district Superintendent Mike Sowder said in a prepared budget statement.

The school district has experienced a steady decline in enrollment over recent years and expects an average 15 fewer students next year, bringing enrollment to 1,972 students, according to the proposed budget.

The reduction has a direct impact on how much funding Astoria's public schools receive from the state, which allocates money to school districts according to a funding formula based on the number of students enrolled, special needs of those students, the number who speak English as a second language, transportation costs and adjustments for highly experienced teachers, minus the revenues received from local resources, such as bond levies, property taxes and payments for timber harvests on state-owned land in the area.

However, while enrollment has decreased, the amount of money the district expects to receive for each student has gone up, because the state school fund is larger than in previous years.

Based on the Legislature's total allocation to schools for 2006-07, an estimated $14,911,213 will go to Astoria schools, up $952,332 from what was budgeted for 2005-06. That number could change a little as enrollment figures fluctuate throughout the state.

With additional funding for special needs and other adjustments for students, that's almost $5,700 per student that will fund employee salaries and benefits, purchased services, supplies and equipment and some other expenses.

The state money covers more than 90 percent of the school district's general operating costs, although schools receive money from other government sources as well in the form of extracurricular and food services funding, debt service and grants for specific programs and teachers.

Payroll is the largest expense on the budget, as it has been in the past, using about 86 percent of the district's revenues.

But none of the 230 full-time positions will be cut. Instead, the district will likely add back some jobs next year, principal Lockett said, and all program funding will remain as it is now or increase a little.

"There aren't a lot of controversies when you get good news about the budget," Lockett said.

The budget committee will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Astoria School District office, 785 Alameda Ave.


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