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509-J board approves $50.8 million budget

General Editor
   June 25, 2003 — The School District 509-J Board approved a $50.8 million budget for next year at its Monday night meeting.
   The resulting tax rate will be $4.58 per $1,000 of property tax value for general operations, and $2,064,527 for construction bonds for work on Madras High and Buff Elementary.
   Teachers Mike and Barbara McGinnis and Lonnie Henderson spoke before the budget vote, asking board members to establish a list to indicate which programs would be restored if more money comes in from State School Support funds. Schools have been cut back in P.E., music, library, counseling and other programs during the current budget crunch.
   "Making a list of what will be restored would stop rumors and alleviate fears," said Michael McGinnis.
   "We could certainly look at that," replied Board Chair Bob Ringering.
   However, one factor is on-going union negotiations with employees, board members pointed out.
   "Salaries and benefits make up 90 percent of our budget and (employees) get a 6 percent raise a year, but our budget stays the same or goes down," said board member Tom Norton.
   Board member Steve Earnest agreed that times are hard. "Our State School Support went down by $1 million ... and I don't think it's going to change. During good times we get used to having things and then when times get hard it's really hard to make those cuts, but that's what you have to do," Earnest said.
   In other business, new board members Mary Jo Deuel and Wayne Marshall were sworn-n by Ringering, and outgoing board members Tom Norton, who has served 12 years, and Jim Manion, who has served nine years, were thanked and presented plaques for their service. The new members will take office July 1.
   The board approved a contract for the Confederated Tribes to provide school officer Chris Elliott at no charge. For Officer Hankins, hired from the Jefferson County Sheriff's office, approval was given to raise the hourly rate to $31.03, with overtime rate of $39.33 (was $28.26 and $35.50 last year).
   In an annual insurance review by Mike McGowan, the board learned that it's insurance company Great American has left the state along with several other insurance companies. Only two companies, the Oregon School Boards Association Insurance Pool and Special Districts Insurance, are currently available to insure school districts.
   The board voted to purchase an approximately $300,000 total insurance package, with the bulk from OSBA and earthquake, flood and other insurance from a few smaller companies.
   An updated rewrite of Madras High School's graduation requirements, done by Principal Sean Gallagher, was approved and will take affect immediately.
   The board discussed school bus purchases at length. Business Department Supervisor Gail Stone told board members the district was five buses behind schedule on its 10-year bus purchasing plan to keep a well-running fleet.
   Part of the problem, she noted, was that in May there was a recall on Carpenter buses due to faulty welding that causes them to collapse if they roll during an accident. District 509-J has three Carpenter buses, including the small White Buffalo bus, that were taken out of use immediately.
   Stone and Transportation Supervisor Gary Sisk recommended that the district lease buses over a five-year period at $79,000 each with the option to buy, since it can't afford to purchase buses right now.
   Board members approved going with a lease/purchase plan for three large buses and one small bus, and noted the money is already set aside in the bus account.
   Three new people were appointed to the district's Diversity Council: Sue Matters, Christine Rodriguez and Mack Gardner.
   A donation of $5,270 worth of graphic arts equipment was accepted from the Mt. Hood Community College graphic arts department, which has been eliminated due to budget cuts.
   Under personnel, Heidi Boyle was hired to teach at Westside Elementary, replacing Maria Randle, who will become the reading coach for the Reading First Grant.
   Deborah Hunt was hired to teach first grade at Madras Elementary, and Craig Morgan will again be the head teacher at Madras Elementary. The position was vacant last year.
   Administrative retirees Phil Riley and Keith Johnson will continue their duties under a full-time temporary contract for 2003-04, while Dick Junge will be on a half-time contract next year.
   Resignations were accepted from language arts teacher Andrea Hansen, who will be teaching in Thames, England; special ed teacher Kristi Becker, who is moving to Virginia; and MHS language teacher Holly Kimble, who is moving.
   Following and executive session, the board approved an alternate reroofing plan for the Jefferson County Middle School to be done by Pacific Rainier of Washington for $647,000, with an additional amount for ribbing on portions of the roof. The repairs will use a rubberized roofing material that will be placed over current leaking roof.