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Gresham-Barlow district plans staff cuts

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Attrition will cut 11 jobs in the Gresham-Barlow School district.

CONTRIBUTED - Superintendent Jim Schlachter
The Gresham-Barlow School District plans to reduce staffing by 11 positions to save money next year as a measure to ease a budget crunch that it and other school districts are feeling.

"It is disappointing that once again Oregon schools are facing budget reductions," said Superintendent Jim Schlachter in a statement. "The Gresham-Barlow School District is working to manage reduced state funding by using reserve funds to keep staff reductions to a minimum."

Like other districts in East Multnomah County, Gresham-Barlow is making its financial decisions based on the state allocating $8.1 billion for public schools. The Oregon Legislature is struggling to craft a budget and is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall.

Gresham-Barlow will have a $3.5 million shortfall if the state allocates $8.1 billion for schools.

Schlachter's budget message said the gap will be filled by drawing down $2 million from reserves, cutting 11 positions and shaving budgets for curriculum and facilities.

The state's 10th largest school district will eliminate the 11 staff positions through attrition and does not expect any layoffs. The reductions will be made across all groups — administrative, teaching and support staff. Gresham-Barlow already eliminated one administrator position with the announced retirement of human resources executive director Randy Bryant. He will not be replaced and Deputy Superintendent James Hiu will take on Bryant's human resources job and Deputy Superintendent Teresa Ketelsen's responsibilities will also be adjusted.

Earlier, Reynolds School District unveiled its budget and said it faces a $10.6 million shortfall. That's the equivalent of 85 teaching positions or 19 school days. Cutting a school day saves the district $500,000.

Reynolds plans to balance its books with a combination of staff reductions, a shorter school year and other cuts. Reynolds is also trying to sell several properties it no longer uses.

Centennial School District said it can maintain its current level of service without layoffs or cutting school days. Portland Public Schools, the state's largest district, said it may have to lay off as many as 70 people at the state funding levels that are being discussed.

Although the state allocation for each school district is likely to be more dollars than prior years, district costs are increasing faster, thus causing the shortfalls. Many of the costs are nearly impossible to cut, such as retirement benefits, salaries and utilities.

School district administrators only propose a budget. It is the all-volunteer, publicly-elected school board that has the ultimate word on how districts budget and spend their money.

The Legislature is considering allocating $7.8 billion to K-12 education, not the $8.1 billion figure most of the districts are using to craft their budgets. If the $7.8 billon funding level occurs, Gresham-Barlow will face an additional $3 million reduction in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.

The Gresham-Barlow budget message said that at a $7.8 million allocation, the district would have to consider additional staff reductions, resulting in larger class sizes.

Voters recently approved a $291.2 million bond for the Gresham-Barlow district, but these funds cannot be used to pay salaries, buy books or supplies. Funds from bonds can only be used to build or improve school buildings and for some types of equipment such as heating or security systems.

The public can testify at the Gresham-Barlow budget committee meeting on Monday, May 22, when the committee will vote on the budget. The Gresham-Barlow school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Thursday, June 8 at its regular meeting.