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Forest Grove School District will turn to unions for next round of cuts

Board hears about $405,000 in cuts; $500,000 more could depend on employees

Besides the $780,000 it cut a month ago and $405,000 in reductions outlined Monday night, Forest Grove School District officials told the school board they'll soon tap employee unions for ideas about how to trim another $500,000 from the budget before the school year ends.

All of that is piled on top of a budget season that sent $7.5 million in cuts to the board June.

'I've already talked to [the unions] about the problems,' business manager Mike Schofield said, adding that he planned to return to members of licensed, classified and confidential/supervisory groups later this fall 'to ask their help with solutions,' which in the past have come in the form of pay concessions.

Schofield said he did not want to cut school days. 'I'll only need to go back and add them back in later,' he noted.

The district is obliged to cut a whopping $1.7 million from its general fund budget this year because of low expenditure projections made last spring, particularly in the areas of Public Employees Retirement System obligations and substitute pay. Those errors set the district on a financial collision course to be as much as $3.2 million in the hole by June 2013, the second year in a two-year budget cycle.

But Schofield, who replaced Darin Davidson in the district business office in July, has assured the board he's working a plan to leave the district $978,000 in the black by June 30, 2012.

The newest round of cuts takes away the equivalent of a fulltime position in technology; gives a part-time administrator responsibility for coordinating the district's Title I program; reduces licensed special ed staff by 1.3 employees; brings administration of the district's benefits contract in-house; eliminates a school nurse position and does away with professional dues reimbursement for administrators.

Schofield, who noted that a 169-student drop in enrollment this year won't hit the district's revenue stream until 2012-13 because of a 'stop-loss' provision in the state's education funding formula, said he'll continue to look for ways to reduce expenses. 'We'll be looking to administrators' budgeted expenses and say, 'Do you have to have it?'' he said.

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis said that while the district had been successful so far in 'staying away from cuts that affect the classroom,' the only other place to go is classrooms and programs.

Board member Kate Grandusky asked whether the district could benefit from an independent audit of its financial books.

Schofield said no, adding that he is training staff on the various budget categories to help guard against additional unwelcome surprises.

Read the documents: the district's financial outlook

This week the Forest Grove School Board wrangled with how to tackle another round of budget cuts.

In June, the board adopted a budget that cut $7.5 million from the district's operations. Those cuts hit classrooms, electives and teacher positions.

This fall, the district learned that low projections of costs in categories like Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS, payments has created another $1.7 million hole that needs filling this year.

But Mike Schofield, who replaced Darin Davidson in the district business office in July, has assured the board he's working a plan to leave the district $978,000 in the black by June 30, 2012.

In a presentation he gave to the school board Monday, Schofield outlined some of the cuts made to fill the gap and gave a picture of what the district's fiscal house might look like in the future. Schofield was quick to note that many of these numbers - especially those looking out into the 2012-2013 school year - will change. A significant enrollment drop seems to be in the offing for the district, which will likely reduce the district's share of future state revenue.

But the presentation offers a glimpse into what the district is doing now to right its finances. To take a look, click here.