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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, that’s only if the school district doesn’t 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 Foundation’s campaign are completed later this year, he added.

The reasoning

Cutting staff is under consideration because employees’ salaries constitute the lion’s 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,” Korach’s 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.

“We’re trying to do the same or more with less,” Finance Director Stuart Ketzler said.

The plan

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 district’s 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 we’re spending more than we’re taking in,” Korach said.

The unknowns

It’s hard to craft a financial strategy when the school district doesn’t know for sure what most of its resources and expenditures will be next fiscal year, Korach said. The state Legislature hasn’t approved the education budget; school district employee contract negotiations aren’t 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 district’s 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 week’s 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 legislature’s 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 levy’s 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 district’s 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.

School board meeting

  • Lakeridge High School art educator Shannon McBride announced at the school board meeting that Lakeridge has made the top 10 in the Northwest region for the Vans Custom Culture competition. Contestants such as the 20 Lakeridge students customized Vans shoes in the categories of art, music, action sports and local flavor. To win a region, a school must get the most votes. A person can only vote once from a given internet protocol address, a number assigned to devices within the same computer network. Voting is open through May 13. To vote, visit vans.com/customculture/vote. Regional winners get $4,000 and a trip to New York, and the winning art department scores $50,000.

  • In addition to the budget discussion, the school board approved hiring Brian Crawford as assistant principal of Lake Oswego High School, effective July 1.

  • A discussion of school district safety planning included training with the Lake Oswego Police Department on addressing an active threat such as an armed intruder. An update of emergency response protocol also is in process for evacuation, lock-in (community threat, hazardous weather), serious injury/illness and lock-down (campus threat, intruder). Police will be training staff and students. District training documents will be finalized this summer.

  • Administrators presented the current fee schedule to the board for a routine annual discussion. No changes were recommended or made. The board in September approved changes including increasing tuition for nonresident students this school year from $6,500 to $7,000 for grades 1 to 12. The tuition will stay the same next school year.

  • There was a review of the superintendent search process. School board member Teri Oelrich said more than 100 community members have offered their views and are looking for a good communicator with integrity. The school board was to meet with search consultant Jim Shoemake of Ray and Associates Inc. on Wednesday for an extra board meeting to discuss the search timeline and community input. Korach will retire in 2014.

  • The high schools could choose to try to change their Oregon School Activities Association ranking to 5A (870 to 1,479 average daily membership) from 6A (1,480 or more ADM). OSAA is requesting classification determinations by June 1. The high schools currently are ranked 6A on the 1A to 6A ranking system, although they would be in 5A by default because of numbers. The local high schools petitioned for a 6A ranking to compete with the largest schools. Reclassifications are done every four years, and a change would take effect in 2014-15.




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