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Committee approves $2 million cut to TTSD budget

UPDATE: Few teacher layoffs expected even as 27 positions are on chopping block

About 27 jobs will likely be cut from the Tigard-Tualatin School District next month, after the district's Budget Committee approved a $2 million staff reduction Wednesday night.

The cuts come in the middle of 'Teacher Appreciation Week' in the district, a decision that was not lost on committee members.

The cuts will eliminate 23.5 teaching jobs - including the district's five full-time technology specialists - and classroom sizes are expected to rise by one students in first, second and third grades.

The Budget Committee approved the proposed budget, sending it to the School Board for final approval.

Most of the cuts will likely be absorbed through normal retirements and attrition, said district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon.

So far, more than 22 people in the district announced their retirement, and another 32 will leave the district through attrition, Stark Haydon said.

'We should be pretty close with just retirements and resignations,' she said. 'There are some positions that we will have to rehire, depending on what class they taught.'

The cuts include 4.5 classroom teachers at the elementary school level, as well as each of the district's half-time technology specialists at all 10 elementary schools.

At the district's middle schools, 7.5 teachers could be laid off, and another 6.5 teaching positions would be eliminated at the high school level. A part-time classified staff employee at each high school would also be let go.

The district office would cut one administrator position and a part-time special education teacher, as well as a part-time food service position and the district's receptionist.

Parents, teachers and technology supporters repeatedly asked the committee to spare the technology specialists because of the $20 million bond measure passed by voters in 2011, which is scheduled to bring in thousands of new technology devices into the district.

Many in the audience requested the school district seriously consider furlough days in order to save jobs, but Superintendent Rob Saxton said there likely wasn't time to engage with all of the district's employment groups, which would be needed to cut days.

Local option shortfall

The $2 million in proposed cuts will help the district grapple with a shortfall in its local option levy, which is expected to bring in only half as much as it did this year.

The district is looking at about a $1 million drop this year and next year in the levy, which taxes properties in the district on the difference between their assessed value and real market value. The local option levy tax rate is $1 per $1,000.

In many cases, the market value of a home has dropped so much there is not much of a gap to apply the tax to, Stark Haydon said.

The amount the levy has collected over the years has dropped dramatically due to the down economy.

In many cases, Saxton said, the gap is so small the homes aren't being taxed at all.

Two years ago, the district collected about $7 million from the levy. This year it brought in about $4.9 million, and next year district officials expect it to bring in only about $2.4 million.

Tigard-Tualatin has relied on $5.5 million of its $11 million in reserve funds to pay for the current school year and planned on using a similar amount to help pay for next year.

Those savings have helped the district sail the rough economic seas. But when the reserves run out in the fall of 2013, the district could have some difficult decisions to make.

Board member Jill Zurschmeide said she was 'defeated' by this year's budget because of the looming shadow of future budget cuts.

'The elephant in the middle of the room is that this year we are agonizing about how to cut $2 million, and next year we may be looking at $10 (million) or $15 million. I have a hard time getting too worked up because I'm too depressed.'

The district would need to see its funding grow by about 19 percent by then in order to keep from making deep cuts in the years ahead, Saxton said. However, state economists project a 13 to 15 percent increase.

The School Board is set to adopt the 2012-13 budget at its June 25 meeting.



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