Budget news

May 26, 2010

Monday night the School Board unanimously approved a $456 million General Fund budget for next year. By Tuesday morning, the state’s newest revenue forecast, with its $562 million shortfall, changed the equation.

Governor Ted Kulongoski plans for across-the-board cuts of roughly 9 percent in all state spending for 2010-11. That includes the State School Fund, source of most of our General Fund.

The Oregon Department of Education will soon provide financial impact estimates to PPS and other districts. Early calculations are that these cuts could mean a reduction of $19 million to our PPS budget next year – or 4 percent of our total.

We hold out some hope for good news from the federal government, however. The stimulus package last year provided support for state budgets; this year Congress is considering a $23 billion package specifically to help preserve jobs in K-12 schools. Oregon’s share could be just under $200 million, with as much as $16 million for PPS.

Education organizations across Oregon are joining the national effort to urge passage of the Keep Our Educators Working Act. You may learn more from state advocates, OSBA and OEA.

As you all know from unfortunate experience, school districts in general have few options when it comes to cutting budgets, as the vast majority of spending pays for employee compensation. For major cost reductions, school districts turn to a few core areas: reducing staff positions, increasing class sizes, shortening the school year, enforcing furloughs and freezing pay and benefit costs. None of these options are desirable; most require agreement with employee associations.

Since the Governor announced his plan on Tuesday, I have been talking and meeting with the school board, employee association leaders and district administrators. As I know more and we move toward any recommendation for next year’s budget, I will share that information with you.

These are difficult times and heart-rending decisions, and yet our mission of increasing the academic achievement of each and every one of our students does not change. I hope that by working together we will make the best decisions for our students, for our colleagues in the district, and for our community.

Carole Smith