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Budget uncertainty has school officials scrambling

With school district officials across the state beginning to build their 2013-14 budgets, it was a bit of a good news, bad news scenario last week with budget information coming in from both the state and federal governments.

As the heralded federal sequestration spending cuts went into effect March 1, education officials statewide and locally scrambled to make sense of what it will mean for next year’s budgets.

At the same time, the co-chairs of Oregon’s Joint Ways and Means Committee released a proposed 2013-15 biennium budget that included $6.55 billion for K-12 education, far higher than Gov. John Kitzhaber’s $6.15 billion budget proposal released in December.

Even at a $6.55 billion funding level, Hillsboro school officials will need to make additional cuts during the 2013-14 school year, Superintendent Mike Scott wrote in a letter to staff, parents and the community last week.

“Unfortunately for Hillsboro and many other districts across the state, it will not be enough,” he said, to restore cuts days and other programs axed in previous years of budget reductions.

Budget scenarios laid out in Scott’s letter suggested an $8 million shortfall for 2013-14 if the five cut days are restored to the school calendar. Cutting five school days still would leave the district with a $5.3 million shortfall; and cutting five days, along with using the district’s remaining $6.5 million in reserve funds, would leave a $325,000 shortfall.

Federal cuts coming down the line are still somewhat of a mystery, but the district’s chief financial officer, Adam Stewart, said current information indicates a 6.6 percent cut to Title I funding, which helps pay for direct instructional services for students in high poverty schools.

Hillsboro has 12 high poverty schools receiving Title I funds, according to Kathy Robinson, executive director of federal programs for the district. Hillsboro will receive $3.3 million in Title I funds this year.

According to Stewart, 6.6 percent reduction in Title I funding means a $218,000 loss in federal funds.

Hillsboro also receives $3.7 million in federal funds for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Stewart expects a 4.7 percent reduction in those funds, resulting in a loss of about $175,000.

Stewart said the federal cuts aren’t likely to affect this year’s budget and that they won’t occur “until after the funding allocations for the 2013-14 school year ... but we don’t yet have confirmation that this is the case.”



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