$20M shortfall expected for school district

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By HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes

Another painful budget message came from Superintendent Sandy Husk to the Salem-Keizer Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Everyone knew that the school district, which has been struggling financially in recent years, would have to adjust to a shortfall of $20.5 million. Husk, knowing that she had to present unwelcome news about ways to adjust, noted that the administration was keeping the same goals.

A screen presentation accompanying her talk began with “Our vision: All students graduate and are prepared for a successful life.”

“This year’s budget message,” Husk said, “is not quite as dramatic as what we had last spring.”

The screen showed several charts indicating financial changes in recent years and changes in student achievement.

“We saw increases in student achievement in the past six years,” she noted.

The estimated total district revenue for 2012-13 is $343,423,734. This includes “flow-through” revenue from property taxes, interest and fees.

Expenses are estimated at $363,455,805, not including about $500,000 for technology. The total is $365,955,805, for a shortfall of $20,532,071.

To decide what to cut to balance the budget, Husk recommended that the committee start by determining what the district needs to meet its goals. She noted that the greatest concerns of school staffers are class sizes; time for teachers to compare notes with their peers; losses of support systems such as counselors, office staff, administrators and college connections; efficiency of technology; and loss of colleagues.

Budget committee concerns Husk noted included class sizes, programs for students, and technology funding.

She listed recommendations of reducing the ending fund balance to 3 percent, and adjusting associated payroll costs such as employment, which would cut the shortfall to $9,724,783. Repurposing of small schools, cuts in supplies and materials, reductions in transportation and cuts in contracted security services would reduce it to $8 million.

Under discussion, Husk said, are employee concessions and possibly still other cuts.

She noted that reductions must be legal, sustainable, operationally sound and supportive of academic achievement.

Further budget committee meetings will be at 6 p.m. April 23, 24 and 25, with public testimony and possible recommended budget approval April 25. If the committee is not ready with a recommendation by then, meetings on April 26 and 27 will be possible but without public testimony. School Board adoption of the budget is scheduled for a May 8 public hearing. All meetings will be at the Support Services Center, 2575 Commercial St. SE, in Salem.

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