School budget committee eyes new option levy

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By HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes

A local option levy as an alternative source of revenue was mentioned by Mike Wolfe, assistant superintendent of the Salem-Kaiser School District, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Salem-Keizer Budget Committee.

Wolfe urged that the committee consider such a property tax, which at $1.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation would raise an estimated $18 million. He said that although the process of establishing the tax would take too long for it to take effect in the next school year, school officials should look ahead.

Committee member Ron Daniels, a former Morrow County School District superintendent and former president of Blue Mountain Community College, said that the longer the district waits to seek funds, the less its chances are of obtaining them.

Much of the meeting was taken up by presentations from administrators on what some of the district departments were doing. They included one by Kristen Duun, information technology director for the district, on technical advances for which she urged district personnel to keep up with the students. For example, she said cash and credit cards are outdated for students who flash iPads to pay for restaurant meals. Duun noted that 17.5 percent of the computers in the school system are at least eight years old, and she asked: “Can we go to 10 years old? It’s getting difficult.”

Another presentation, by Wolfe, focused on business issues, including district transportation. Daniels said that, having worked for a private bus company, he did not think the district could save money by contracting out transportation. Committee Chair Chris Brantley, a School Board member, said that contracting could be necessary if enough buses were ready to be replaced.

Brantley, noting that he has been a teacher and principal, gave his fellow committee members an assignment for the next budget meeting, which has been moved from March 20 to March 12. Each member is to go through all the proposed budget items for 2012-13 and indicate what he or she considers the three most important and the three least important.

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