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School officials express dismay over governor's proposed budget

District may face cuts if state budget passes
The release of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposed state budget for 2005-07 was decried by school officials last week.
   "This is definitely underfunding the schools," said Steve Swisher, Crook County School District superintendent.
   At a press conference on Dec. 1, Kulongoski told attendants, "I want to be clear that this is only a starting point. Do I wish we could provide more funding to K-12? Absolutely."
   The governor proposed setting aside $5 billion for schools during the next biennium, which is a $100 million increase from the last biennium.
   "It is about 2.3 percent above what the current year's budget is for school. That of course is favorable, but the state just hasn't made up for series of cuts in last four years," he stated.
   The Oregon Legislature will meet in January to budget for the next biennium.
   The superintendent explained that for every $100 million in the budget about $500,000 of each $100 million translates to Crook County dollars.
   "That's a rough estimate that changes with the total number of students we have," said Swisher.
   He said about 85 percent of the CCSD budget goes towards paying personnel costs, like teachers and classified staff.
   Swisher cited that the increasing costs of gas and energy costs are a burden districts, as well as individuals.
   "Basically, with what the governor has proposed we would still be making cuts just to keep and maintain our current programs," Swisher said.
   State School Superintendent Susan Castillo told the Oregonian that the $5 billion the governor has proposed would mean that more schools will have to increase class size, curtail programs, or shorten the school year.
   If the proposed budget were to pass with the $5 billion funding Oregon schools, Swisher said there would also be cuts in Crook County school programs.
   "It's probably a little too early to speculate the kinds of things that could possibly be cut," said Swisher.
   "I want to stay away from pinpointing particular areas now. Before we start speculating, we at least still need to let things mull over until March, when things get real serious about budget development. That's when tough choices are starting to be made," said Swisher.
   The formation of the Educational Foundation for Crook County would help offset some costs.
   "(The foundation) would have have some impact, but wouldn't solve the funding by itself," said Swisher.
   He remains optimistic that in the following months, the amount of funding Oregon schools will receive during 2005-07 will increase.
   "It would be a very tight budget. I know this is just a starting point. Things won't get finished up until May. My guess is there will be some fierce lobbying," said Swisher.