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Budget Committee anxious about school levy

Outcome of ballot measure will determine fate of further school cuts


Beaverton School District’s Budget Committee is marching toward approving a 2013-14 proposed budget that hinges on the will of voters in the May 21 election.

District leaders are asking the committee to vote next week on the third, best-case scenario proposal. This option relies on voter approval of a $15 million local-option levy and the Oregon Legislature's proposed reforms to the Public Employees Retirement System.

Not knowing the fate of either of those key funding issues does not sit well with committee members, who are forced to recommend a budget to the School Board before the election.

While committee members support the only option of three that would not require them to slash millions of dollars from next year's school budget, many voiced real concerns Monday night about the alternative options in the event the levy fails.

"The levy is of vital importance," said School Board member Sarah Smith during Monday's budget meeting at Beaverton High School. "Scenario two scares me. We are putting a lot of faith in our community."

The second scenario would result from $200 million in PERS reform at the $6.55 billion state school funding level. It would require the district to carve $5 million in reductions from the 2013-14 proposed budget.

Those cuts pile on top of a total of $142 million of reductions Beaverton schools have been forced to make in the past five years. Those cuts included eliminating 16 days of school and 640 teaching positions, which has increased class sizes at every level.

"A lot of students have been left behind with the budget cuts," said Susan Greenberg, vice-chairwoman of the Budget Committee. "I cannot imagine the levy not passing. This is already a Band-Aid scenario with the levy."

Committee member Carrie Anderson agreed, saying ultimately it is the students who suffer from the lack of adequate, stable school funding from the state. She likened the years of cuts to putting students on "deferred maintenance," preventing them from the well-rounded education they deserve that will set them up for future long-term success.

"It's not fair that a generation of students is not getting a full educational experience," Anderson said.

While the second scenario is not acceptable to her, she is cautiously hopeful voters will approve the levy that will provide funding for 151 more teaching positions, protect educational programs and lower class sizes.

The local-option levy that appears on the May 21 ballot — Measure 34-204 — will keep the school district from having to make additional cuts. Passage of the levy would cost $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value over a five-year period, or about $24 per month for the typical homeowner in the district.

Superintendent Jeff Rose told the committee he was confident the district would not have to brace for the worst-case scenario — $6.55 billion state school funding without PERS reform that would require the district to cut $11 million from the budget.

The next budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the school district's Central Administration Center, 16550 S.W. Merlo Road.

For more information, visit beaverton.k12.or.us/home.




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