If state funds aren't there, the emergency system will be changed

Oregon Public Broadcasting will no longer be available for statewide emergency response and 'amber alert' broadcasts 24 hours a day if it doesn't receive money from the state by Sept. 1.

Incoming OPB board Chairman Tom Bruggere announced the prospective change Tuesday after the board's approval of what he called a 'difficult' budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

OPB, which is not a public agency, declined to release the amount of the budget.

The agency learned in April that it would not receive a previously anticipated $3.45 million from the state for the 2003-05 biennium because of the state's expected budget shortfall.

Laurie Kelley, OPB vice president of marketing and planning, said Wednesday that OPB was postponing any cuts until September to 'give the state every opportunity to support OPB.'

Kelley said the proposed change Ñ making the emergency broadcasts unavailable between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Ñ would save OPB approximately $100,000 a year, an amount that another OPB employee said would do little to fill the hole created by the expected loss of state funding. The employee declined to be identified for publication.

Station employees had previously told the Tribune they anticipate both layoffs and cancellation of programs, such as the locally produced shows 'Seven Days' and 'Oregon Field Guide,' as a result of financial problems.

OPB already has asked its union employees, who make up slightly less than one-third of its staff, to accept wage freezes and cuts to health insurance and retirement benefits, said Claire Closmann, chief negotiator with OPB for Service Employees International Union Local 503. Negotiations will continue next week.

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