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Hillsboro proposes $207M schools budget

Hillsboro schools Superintendent Mike Scott presents the 2015-16 proposed budget to the budget committee tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the district's administration office, 3083 N.E. 49th Place.

The budget includes a full school year and has no cuts in teachers or programs for the 2015-16 school year, a better scenario than anticipated earlier in the budgeting process.

With state school funding of $7.255 billion — what legislators have dubbed “the floor,” as more money could go to schools if state revenue is higher than expected — Hillsboro will be able to maintain a “status quo” budget in 2015-16, including $720,000 in targeted reinvestment in four areas: $100,000 to athletics and activities; $200,000 to Talented and Gifted (TAG) programming and staffing; $340,000 for one instructional coach at each of the district’s four high schools; and $80,000 for graduation coaches.

“One thing we hear is, ‘You’ve done a great job being deliberate about addressing the needs of some groups of students. You haven’t been as deliberate about addressing the needs of all the students,’” Superintendent Mike Scott said in response to questions about investing money in the TAG program. As many as 8 percent of the student population is TAG-identified or working at an accelerated level, Scott said.

The budget includes the costs of adding full-day kindergarten next year (29 teachers at an approximate cost of $2.46 million, plus bus purchases, equipment, furniture and technology) and includes estimated settlements with the teachers’ and classified employees’ unions, both of whose contracts are up for negotiations this year.

Additionally, the budget assumes $1.2 million in Gain Share money coming to the district. There are several bills working their way through the Legislature that could affect the way Gain Share is distributed.

Scott warned of the volatility of the budget last week at a budget committee update session. “We’ve had swings to the tune of $4 million in the last three weeks,” he said.

PERS ruling

Last week’s ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court on PERS — effectively nullifying the “grand bargain” deal negotiated in the Legislature in October 2013 — won’t affect the district budgets during the 2015-17 biennium, Stewart said.

But that’s not to say Stewart isn’t already running the numbers.

“The preliminary estimate is that PERS rates will increase by 5.5 percent in 2017-19,” said district spokeswoman Beth Graser.

“We had previously built a 2 percent PERS rate increase into our budget estimate for 2017-19. Because our payroll is approximately $100 million, every percentage point represents a cost of approximately $1 million, so an extra 3.5 percent would mean approximately $3.5 million each year of the biennium.”

Athletics and activities

School board member Monte Akers presented a five-year plan to the budget committee last week that would reinvest in extracurricular activities and athletics and “eliminate the participation fee over five years.” Akers was out of town at the time, but each budget committee member received his proposal.

Akers said the district over the last seven years had decreased extracurricular funding by $600,000. “The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that it has become an equity issue for our students,” he wrote.

“These programs should be open to all students, not dependent on their financial situation or the high school they attend or the fundraising abilities of their adult leaders.”

As of Tuesday, Akers said he had not heard any feedback from committee members, but expected additional discussion at Thursday’s budget committee meeting.

“Grit, passion and the right attitude are what extracurricular activities teach and we don’t seem to think these characteristics are as important anymore,” Akers said.

“Talk to any employer and they will tell you they value these traits far more than academic prowess.”

By state law, the budget must be finalized and approved by the school board by June 30.

The budget committee is made up of the seven members of the school board and seven community members appointed by the school board.

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