WARRENTON — The biggest hit in this year’s Warrenton-Hammond School District budget is a furlough day for employees on Labor Day.

Tuesday the school board reviewed a proposed 2013-14 budget of slightly more than $9 million for the general fund while leaders reflected on good decisions made last year that are paying off now.

“We are one of the few districts I know of who can talk five years,” said Superintendent Mark Jeffery, comparing Warrenton to other Oregon districts only able to project a balanced budget 18 to 24 months ahead.

This year’s budget compares to $8,232,000 last year. Most increases are because of boosted enrollment in kindergarten and fifth grade – both grades where the district added a teacher.

Last year, the district, faced with its own insolvency in 18 months, created a five-year balanced budget plan and started instituting $865,000 in cuts to take place during the following four years.

Between last school year and 2014-15, the district also planned to cut 4.5 full-time equivalent worth of classified employees and 4.25 worth of teachers, saving an estimated $1,793,250 over the same five-year period. This year, it was able to cancel .5 of those layoffs for both staff and faculty because of increased enrollment and other savings.

Including previous years, the 2013-14 budget reflects 12 furlough days cut from the school year, some student contact days, others holidays and staff-only days.

By contrast, members of Oregon districts like Beaverton, which is facing between a $5 and $11 million in cuts, have been going door to door trying to raise support for a bond levy to raise more money and add teachers back.

“The five-year plan was founded on the concept that we could not just make cuts without making improvements or we would continue to incentivize people to leave the district,” said Jeffery in his budget message. “As a result, we redirected money from our summer school program to improving technology, started a preschool and recently implemented a robotics program at the elementary level.”

Gov. John Kitzhaber, in his budget, proposed $6.15 billion in K-12 funding over the 2013-15 biennium. In March, Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Peter Buckley proposed $6.55 billion.

Senate Bill 822, which passed the House and Senate and is at the governor’s office for approval or veto, promises to save $200 million over the next biennium.

It would cap cost-of-living-adjustment for retirees, eliminate the out-of-state tax benefits for PERS?recipients not paying Oregon taxes and have the PERS Board lower the employer rate by an additional 1.9 percent. The bill, seen as unconstitutional by some, faces certain legal battles if passed.

“If the PERS rates do go through, we're looking at about $200,000 in savings,” said Financial Manager Mike Moha, adding that the district could receive up to a 4.7-percentage point drop on next year’s increased rates. District officials, though, have cautioned that the plan is only kicking the can down the road, and PERS?rates are expected to continue increasing.

Don Patterson, a member of Warrenton’s budget committee, made a successful motion that if savings from PERS?reform go through, the district will put it all into a special fund reserved only for paying PERS.

Jeffery said the district is expecting a negative impact of about $30,000 from the sequestration of federal funds, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The budget will go to the school board for adoption June 11.

Tags