Superintendent renews warning on state budget woes and shortfall fearsThe Astoria School Board Thursday accepted slightly different terms for the sale of Olney School.

Coastline Christian Fellowship will pay the district $300,000 and will produce the remaining $50,000 within three years, with 6 percent interest. In the original agreement, the church made a single $350,000 payment.

"The underwriting people are somewhat skittish about underwriting so far out of town," said Mike Autio, the church's attorney. With this agreement, he said, the church won't need to jump through as many hoops.

Superintendent Mike Sowder said he expects the deal to be closed today.

Also during the meeting, Sowder outlined the topics up for discussion at a fiscal review 7 p.m. Tuesday at Astoria High School.

The intent is to sketch the financial history of the district, give the public and the board an idea of the current situation, and look at where to go next.

"We're looking at some really ugly figures for next year," Sowder said.

Sowder said that, with another crunch on the way, some in Salem are starting to look at the possibility of returning to local funding for districts. That scenario would offer little relief to Astoria, because taxpayers are already paying on a $21 million capital construction bond.

"It creates the haves and the have-nots," Sowder said. "I don't think that's the answer."

After the meeting, Sowder expressed disappointment at Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed education budget. It allocates $5 billion to K-12 public education, the same as last year. However with inflation and rising health care costs, the Oregon School Boards Association has estimated $5.3 to $5.4 billion is necessary to maintain current services, Sowder said.

"I am not happy at all with the proposed budget for education," he said. "If people want to prioritize education, that message needs to be sent to our legislators, and that's not happening."

Also during the meeting:

• The board approved an Astoria High school field trip to Waldorf, Germany in March.

• The board announced gifts to the district, including 150 Pentium III's, 67 monitors, keyboards and mice from Providence Hospital. The district has valued the donation at $35,000. Among other donations, Big River Excavation Inc. replaced the cement and walkway on the west end of John Jacob Astor Elementary, a gift worth $5,000.

• Community member Peggy Holyoak gave a presentation on the Tapiola playground project. With the help of New York design firm Leathers and Associates Inc., the playground will be shaped to reflect local kids' interests and the history and culture of the entire community. On Thursday, a designer will come from New York and spend the morning meeting with groups of children at all the elementary schools. That person will gather information, then use the afternoon to sketch out a design. That evening at 7 p.m. in the Astoria High School commons there will be a design celebration, when the designer will present the plans for Tapiola to the community.

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