County gives TTSD more Gain Share funds than expected

The Tigard-Tualatin School District is poised to hire back some of the teaching positions it cut earlier this year, thanks to new money from Washington County.

The School Board voted Monday to restore 4.5 positions in the district’s middle and high schools, after it learned that the county’s Gain Share program would be providing more money than originally anticipated.

In June, the district cut more than two dozen open positions and said it would move more than a dozen staff members around as a way to help carve $2 million from its 2013-14 budget.

Gain Share — a tax abatement program passed by the Legislature in 2007 — allows counties to wave millions of dollars in property taxes to lure businesses to the area. In exchange, the county receives an equal split of the state income taxes generated by new jobs from those businesses.

County Chairman Andy Duyck promised $10 million to local schools over the next two years.

Tigard-Tualatin is slated to receive about $1.5 million from that pot by 2015.

After that announcement, the district said it would be able to hire back six teachers — including restoring music programs at Twality Middle School and Tualatin High School.

Monday’s vote will add back an additional 4.5 positions that were absorbed through regular retirements and resignations last year.

The district will add back classes at Tualatin High School and Fowler and Hazelbrook middle schools, said Superintendent Ernie Brown. Secretaries at the middle school level will have their hours restored after they were reduced last year.

The district’s teachers union, the Tigard-Tualatin Education Association, praised the decision Monday, saying the district should be looking into all avenues to ensure that class sizes stay down and teachers stay employed.

“(Adding back teachers) is important not only to students but to the morale and confidence that your teachers have to making sure classroom sizes get smaller,” said Brian Haliski, TTEA’s president and a teacher at Metzger Elementary School. “Our goal is to continue giving the excellent education that we provide students every day.”

Adding back staff in those schools will help address class sizes, Brown said.

Using Gain Share money to restore positions is risky, because the funding dries up in 2015, but Board Chairwoman Dana Terhune said the funding was a welcome relief for the district.

“This is 10 more staff than we thought that we would have,” Terhune said.

The district has cut every year for the past several years. Board Vice-chairman Bob Smith said the county’s funding came at the right time.

“Before this, we were looking down the hole,” said Smith.

Elementary schools, which were saved from the majority of cuts in the last round of layoffs, will see little of the Gain Share money.

“I don’t like to gamble with people’s lives like that, but we took that chance to be able to restore those positions and now we can restore a few more,” Terhune said. “This doesn’t solve — by any stretch — the workload crunch that everybody in the district has, but it has helped some.”

After years of cutting, the situation is still far from ideal, said board member Jill Zurschmeide.

“We are not increasing, we are just adding back what we had to cut,” she said. “But, you know what? I’ll take it.”

Students will return to classrooms for the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

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