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No layoffs planned in 509-J budget

General Editor
   April 30, 2003 — No layoffs are planned, but the budget proposal presented last week by the 509-J Budget Committee included 16 fewer employees, no salary increases, and bigger class sizes.
   Oregon's continuing recession has resulted in cuts in the State School Support funds available to school districts. And this will be the third consecutive year 509-J has had to pare back its budget.
   In 2001-02, the district reduced its budget by $2.4 million, and this year by $1.6 million.
   "And the 2003-04 year offers no sign of relief. In fact, next year's rollbacks will begin to have much more dramatic effects," Supt. Phil Riley said in his budget message.
   509-J's total general fund expenditures for next school year are proposed at $24.5 million, some $900,000 less than last year's expenditure fund.
   Revenue will come from approximately $20 million in State School Funds, $2.2 million Impact Aid funds, and the balance from smaller sources.
   To avoid layoffs, the budget committee recommended not hiring replacements for the 16 teachers and other employees who will be retiring or leaving the district at the end of this year. Some teachers will be shifted from P.E. or other classes to fill the gaps.
   "... this has meant proposing that virtually every vacancy be left unfilled and that individuals with appropriate certification be moved to take up slack wherever possible," the budget message said.
   509-J Business Supervisor Gail Stone gave some details, noting P.E. and music classes would be trimmed back with fewer teachers serving several schools. One elementary counselor position will be eliminated and only one counselor will be hired to replace two others who are leaving. A Talented and Gifted (TAG) specialist will be eliminated at the elementary school level.
   Goals of bringing all-day kindergarten to Madras Elementary and removing the last group of fifth-graders (from Warm Springs) from Jefferson County Middle School and placing them back at Warm Springs Elementary, will have to be tabled, for the time being.
   Warm Springs Summer Academy has been canceled and athletes may be facing a pay-to-play program next year.
   "The funding shortage not only cuts from today's programs, it slows progress toward some of our dreams," Riley said in his message.
   With some 378 employees, about 85 percent of the 509-J budget expenditures go for salaries and benefits. The proposed budget is based on no salary increases across the board, but 509-J is currently negotiating with both its teacher's union and classified union, and those groups may not agree to a salary freeze.
   If a salary freeze is refused, the school board will have to make up the difference with layoffs or major program cuts, the budget message stated.
   Several citizens spoke to budget committee members with objections to cuts in P.E., TAG and all-day kindergarten plans at last week's budget meeting.
   Others are invited to give their input at subsequent meetings slated for 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 6, at Metolius Elementary; and 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 13 at the 509-J Support Services Conference Room on Buff Street in Madras.
   The committee must approve a budget by May 30, to submit to the school board for final approval.