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City nixes request to financially assist school district

From a moral and theoretical standpoint, Beaverton city leaders would like to offer financial help to the Beaverton School Board as it grapples with $37 million in proposed budget cuts.

But from a practical point of view, the idea is a virtual non-starter.

Toward the end of the city's final 2012-13 Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Dennis Doyle said he'd spoken with district Superintendent Jeff Rose about the city chipping in. The idea, based on the city of Portland's recent agreement to provide $7.3 million to help its public schools, was floated during recent district budget meetings.

Seeking guidance from the committee, Doyle heard genuine concern for the district's well-being, but deep ambivalence in terms of a funding commitment.

'I appreciate their dilemma, but (they need) 20 percent of our budget,' City Councilor Ian King said, referring to the district's $37 million shortfall. 'The money's just not there. So what can we do that wouldn't be a token amount?'

Jose Galindez was among the Budget Committee members who brought up last year's school option levy that voters denied, effectively eliminating a $14 million windfall for the district.

'This did go to a vote … and it was voted down,' he said. 'The population has already voted on this one and said 'Uh-uh.' Having a dialog (with the district) is OK, for other things" not in the financial realm.

Councilor Catherine Arnold suggested a contribution of approximately $100,000 toward social services in the district or to support a specific program in one of the district schools within Beaverton.

'It doesn't break our bank, and in a time of need if there's a program in a Beaverton school we might support that would otherwise go away, we could do something that might help some people,' she said.

Fellow Councilor Marc San Soucie supported the notion, but Councilor Cathy Stanton noted it would be tricky to direct funding to a program or school specifically in Beaverton when the district includes other areas of Washington County.

Councilor Betty Bode, chiming in via conference call, was concerned any assistance the city might offer could set the stage for an ongoing expectation from the district.

'Then next year, we become part of their budget,' she said of the district. 'I don't think it's appropriate. If we give $100,000 this year, they might expect it again next year.'

Based on the feedback, Doyle indicated he would maintain talks with Rose about how the city could assist the district without direct financial contributions.

'We do support the School Board in many ways,' he observed.

Examples of the city's contributions and collaborations with the district include:

• Six full-time Beaverton Police Department School Resource Officer positions provided to help provide support and safety. Including salary, benefits and city equipment, the monetary value is $136,000 for each officer, a total of $816,000, according to city officials.

• The city's gang enforcement tactical team has partnered with the district to conduct team drills in schools in an effort to prepare officers and school employees to deal with emergencies.

• City traffic engineers are available to the district to develop safe-walking routes to schools, and the police department deploys its traffic enforcement team to alleviate problems in school zones.

• The city's Emergency Management Department provides training to a team of central office administrators and supervisors at no cost to the district.

• The city's Dispute Resolution Center is partnering with the district to implement Truancy Mediation programs in select schools. The programs look closely at barriers to school attendance and find ways to help resolve them. The city provides six professional volunteer mediators, one part-time temporary staff member and the support of full-time city staff members. Piloted at Beaverton High School this school year, the program is poised to expand next year with the addition of two elementary schools.