WARRENTON At last month's Warrenton-Hammond School Board meeting, Superintendent Mark Jeffery presented a stark situation:?if the district doesn't change its spending, it will be more than $438,000 in the hole by the end of the 2013-14 academic year. If that happens, school won't begin the following year.
Jeffery said the district won't let that happen.
At its Tuesday meeting, the board approved a plan to budget out five years ahead - to the 2016-17 school year - instead of the usual two, one of the district's first moves to pre-empt insolvency.
Business Manager Mike Moha created a chart predicting the district's revenue and expenditures for the next five years. The district will end this academic year with a fund balance of about $1.2 million. By the end of next year, it will be down to $508,000.
The district is looking at cutting $865,000 over the next four years. Compounded through the end of the 2016-17 academic year, Moha estimates those initial cuts will have a $4,148,750 impact on the budget.
The district will concentrate the majority of cuts in this and the next school year, to the tune of $660,000. The following three years combined will include an additional $250,000 in cuts.
"If we cut $1 million this year, it would be devastating," he said. "We're being pretty aggressive. This way, it's aggressive, but it's gradual."
The staff and faculty - even Jeffery himself - took a first hit Tuesday, agreeing in a memorandum of understanding with the school board to take a number of furlough days increasing each successive year, until they reach the maximum allowed by the state.
"I can't emphasize how much respect I have ... for each one of our employees willingly reducing their income," said Jeffery, who had to cut millions from the budget while he was superintendent of Willamina School District.
Warrenton will cut off the last week of school this year for furlough days, add another five days around Thanksgiving in 2012-13 and add one additional day in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, bringing the total to 12 more furlough days a year. This will save the district an estimated $1.86 million over the next five years.
Jeffery said seven of those will be days teachers have contact with students. The rest are in-service days. Teachers will be able to still meet the state requirement of 990 contact hours with students throughout the school year.
"There's really only two choices," said Scott Carpenter, who teaches history at Warrenton High School. "You can either cut days or cut staff. Most districts agree to cut days."
He said teachers will just have to find a way to make every hour count, including spending less time at assemblies and having fewer early releases for sports.
Between this school year and 2014-15, the district will also cut 4.5 full-time classified employees and 4.25 full-time teachers, saving an estimated $1,793,250 over the same five-year period.
Jeffery said there isn't much to cut in terms of materials and supplies. Only 15 percent of the district's costs are materials; the other 85 percent is personnel. Still, the school has identified a combined $405,000 in materials savings over the next five years.
Jeffery will also be reduced to half-time in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to save $90,000.
All five school superintendents in Clatsop County are signing on, with permission from their school boards, to an intergovernmental agreement that will allow them to continue their own inter-district transfer agreement in the face of House Bill 3681, which allows non-resident students to attend school where they're not residents, as long as the district they're moving to agrees. On Tuesday, Jeffery became the most recent superintendent to do so.
Superintendents in Clatsop County have said their main concerns with the state's new law include that the new policy only allows transfers between March and April 1 and doesn't place requirements on the academic effort and behavior of transfer students.
Jeffery said the board needs to change the language of their existing policy and include language that allows the county's districts to enter into an IGA. The county's own policy allows parents to transfer throughout the year and places academic and behavioral requirements on transfer students lest they be told to return to their original districts.
"I think we have a pretty neat hybrid protocol - procedure - going into place," said Jeffery.
The board approved Sterling Savings Bank as the institution for its recently acquired bond to upgrade heating and cooling systems at two district schools.
Trying to improve the schools without going broke, the board Jeffery recently pursued and secured a Qualified Zone Academy Bond, a little-known debt instrument for school districts created by the Tax Payer Relief Act in 1997 to assist in capital improvements. The bond allows the district to borrow $1.53 million on a 17-year repayment schedule with no interest.
In response to a recent case of head lice, district nurse Christine Gonzalez presented on how schools respond to such situations.
The district keeps all cases confidential and are referred by a staff member or parent who notices lice. If the lice are live, the district will notify the parent and send the student home for the day to be treated. If they are only eggs or dead lice, the student will not be sent home.
"The thought of crawling things on you strikes a chord with some people and causes a knee-jerk reaction," said Gonzalez. "They don't jump; they don't hop; and they don't cause disease. They're not even considered a health concern."
Gonzalez added that lice depend on human blood and only spread through direct contact between people. There have only been about five cases in Warrenton this year, she said, a similar amount to last year. Cases usually peak in the winter, then disappear in the spring.