School board eyes ways to trim already lean budget
Cutting positions is a possibility
Projected budgets show the Lake Oswego School District will continue seeing a drop in revenue and a rise in expenditures for the next three years.
But, thats only if the school district doesnt change its financial strategy, said Superintendent Bill Korach. He presented a new strategy to the school board earlier this week. Administrators proposed general fund budget for next fiscal year includes eliminating hours equaling 10.51 teaching positions to save at least $1 million.
The goal is to trim some full-time positions down to part-time positions to avoid layoffs, although they are a possibility, Korach said. Nothing is certain until the state budget, employee negotiations and the Lake Oswego School District Foundations campaign are completed later this year, he added.
Cutting staff is under consideration because employees salaries constitute the lions share of the budget: more than 87 percent, Korach said. His budget message, released last week, states there are few new strategies left to decrease expenditures that would not have a significantly undesirable impact.
There simply are no easy fixes, no new silver bullet solutions, Korachs budget message says.
In the past three years, the school district has shuttered three elementary schools, offered an early retirement incentive and left positions unfilled. The district has instituted employee furlough days in the last two years, three days for all employees except administrators, who have four. As a result, staff is shouldering more duties and class sizes are inching up.
Were trying to do the same or more with less, Finance Director Stuart Ketzler said.
The proposed general fund budget Korach presented to the school board included altering the staffing ratio the number of students per teacher. Depending on how many students enroll next year, a higher staffing ratio could require fewer teachers. Retirements and vacated positions would help preserve jobs, Korach said.
Korach proposes increasing the staffing ratio by one for all grade levels, raising it to one teacher per 29 students at the high and junior high schools with fewer students per teacher in the lower grade levels.
All grade levels actual ratios are currently below the proposed ratio, except those in physical education and electives at the high school level.
If nothing changes, the districts ending cash balance is projected to dip from $4.8 million in 2012-13 to $1.4 million next fiscal year, 2013-14. It would fall into the red for the following two years.
Korach also intends to decrease spending by an additional $1 million in 2014-15 and another $1 million cut in 2015-16.
We have to make changes to make sure our revenues and expenditures are in sync, and were spending more than were taking in, Korach said.
Its hard to craft a financial strategy when the school district doesnt know for sure what most of its resources and expenditures will be next fiscal year, Korach said. The state Legislature hasnt approved the education budget; school district employee contract negotiations arent done; and the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation funding campaign is still going on.
The foundation donated about $1.7 million to the support teachers salaries in 2011-12; and state funding is 70 percent of the school districts resources.
The big elephant in the room is what the Legislature is going to do this year, said school board member Patti Zebrowski during last weeks budget committee meeting.
Using administrators budget as a springboard, the budget committee, which encompasses five school board members and five community members, by mid-May is expected to have a recommended budget to present to the board. By state law, the school board must adopt a budget by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Administrators proposed budget is based on the $6.55 billion in state funding for K-12 education that the co-chairmen of the state legislatures Joint Ways and Means Committee proposed for the next biennium.
Voters decision on the local option levy renewal on the fall ballot also will have a significant impact in the coming years with the levys revenue accounting for more than 10 percent of operating funds. The five-year levy, which generates $6 million annually, expires in June 2015.
We always go a year ahead because if we would not be successful it gives us another opportunity to go back to the voters, Korach.
How to attend
The public can weigh in on budgetary decisions at the end of each budget committee meeting this spring. The first official meeting was last week.
The next budget meetings are at 7 p.m. next Wednesday and May 15. A 7 p.m. May 22 meeting will be held if the committee needs more time.
The school board will hold a budget hearing at 6 p.m. June 3, and the board is scheduled to adopt the budget on June 10.
Meetings are held at the school districts Administration Building, 2455 Country Club Road.
For more information, visit the Lake Oswego School District website at edline.net/pages/Lake_Oswego_School_District or call 503-534-2000.