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Budget proposal cuts $3.12 million

27 school district employees get pink slips

   509-J Superintendent Kay Baker presented a proposed budget for the 2008-09 school year to the budget committee Tuesday night, which included the layoffs of 27.1 employees.
   She also announced that the school district intends to reduce its $3.12 million deficit within one year, rather than spread cuts over two years.
   Responsible budgeting has been the theme of recent community meetings, Baker said, noting that it includes not using the district's end-of-the-year balance as a source of ongoing revenue, as has been done in the past.
   "It's like a savings account or rainy-day fund. It should not be used for ongoing expenses or you will get yourself into a bind," Baker said.
   She said the goal was to build a budget that balances ongoing expenditures with ongoing revenue.
   Enrollment problems
   With school enrollment down by around 126 students over the past four years, which means less State School Support money, Impact Aid funds down, and local business layoffs meaning enrollment will probably continue to fall, the district has to cut 10.8 percent ($3.1 million) from the general fund budget.
   A study in 2000 by the Department of Corrections on the impact of a prison being built locally, had projected the district would have 3,439 students by 2004, when actually there were only 3,094. A total of 4,498 students were predicted for 2007, but enrollment was only 3,043.
   Westside to close
   The decision to close Westside Elementary will save $920,000, and since staff payroll makes up 85 percent of the school budget, that was the logical place to make a good portion of the further cuts.
   Staff cuts were made across the board, according to a desire expressed by some 400 people who turned out for the public input meetings.
   "Each of us looked in our own departments for cuts, and we looked at the mandates from the Department of Education," Baker said, mentioning the No Child Left Behind Act, and graduation and other mandates.
   A total of 41.87 positions needed to be eliminated to reach the 10.8 percent general fund reduction, but due to attrition (resignations and retirements) only 27.1 employees received layoff notices.
   Letters were sent to those employees April 10, in order to give those with seniority time to rift back into other jobs (bump another person out).
   "(Who's in and who's out) will be a moving target over the next month, based on further retirements and those moving," Banker said.
   The original cuts called for:
   Elementary schools: eliminate 7.37 teachers; (but after retirements and resignations only 1.6 Reduction In Force (RIF) positions were actually cut).
   The closure of Westside and reconfiguration of schools results in average class sizes of 24 to 25 students.
   Jefferson County Middle School: Eliminate 6 teachers; actual RIF was 3.
   Class size will increase to 25 in sixth grade and 28 in seventh and eighth grades.
   Madras High School: Eliminate 6 teachers; actual RIF, 3.
   Classes eliminated -- French and Italian, woods, metals, some business, Teen Parent coordinator, one librarian, and half-time alternative ed teacher.
   Average class size is 24 students.
   Administrators: Eliminate 4; actual RIF, 4. The Westside principal position, MHS dean of students, the director of technology, and a deputy clerk positions were cut.
   District office licensed and classified employees: Eliminate 2, actual RIF, 1.5.Cut half-timeEnglish language teacher, half-time secretary, and a delivery driver.
   
Other classified: Eliminate 16.5, actual RIF, 14. Cut four custodians, the ropes course instructor, six educational assistants, two secretaries, two food service workers.
   In addition to staff cuts, Baker's proposal included cuts to supply and technology purchases, not buying a new bus next year, having the district do its own professional development training rather than paying for travel to conferences, and giving up High Desert ESD consultant contracts.
   Keeping students in mind, the proposed budget will retain certain programs, even though they are an expense.
   "If we lose track of student achievement, there's no reason to be in the business," Baker observed.
   Retained programs include all-day kindergarten, the last year of Reading First at Buff and Madras Elementary (even though grant funds are down), after-school tutoring for JCMS students, online course options for high school students (at former Westside kindergarten annex), and late start days for staff planning and professional development.
   Baker told the budget committee this was just her proposal. "This is my proposed budget. (The budget committee) can make adjustments to it," she said.
   Three public meetings will be held on April 22, 29, and May 6, to allow people to make suggestions and requests to the committee.
   A final budget will be adopted by the school board at its June 23 meeting.