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Tigard-Tualatin School District replenishes reserves in new budget

Board also approved submission of a grant application to help fund proposed school bond

For the first time since the Great Recession, the Tigard-Tualatin School District will add its target amount of money in an emergency rainy day fund, the district announced this week. The district will also be hiring 11 new teachers.

On Monday, the Tigard-Tualatin School Board adopted its 2016-17 budget, approving a plan that will allocate enough money to replenish the district’s reserves, which were depleted after the financial crisis in 2008.

"I am thrilled that we have a budget that is not a cuts budget," said School Board Chairwoman Jill Zurschmeide. "It is prudent ... we are saving money for the next rainy day."

The district dug into its reserve funds heavily during the recession, which district leaders said helped the district stay afloat during the worst of the economic downturn. Tigard-Tualatin was one of the few districts in the state that did not cut school days from its schedule.

At its lowest, the reserve was down to around $4,000,000. Since the 2013-14 school year, the district has been building back those funds to finally reach its target this year.

Monday’s decision will put $14,841,070 back into the district’s reserve accounts, representing about 12 percent of the district's budget. This includes an additional $2,374,373 the district has set aside to help pay for expected increases in the cost of the Public Employees Retirement System, also known as PERS.

The total general fund for the 2016-17 school year is $143,239,508, an increase from $133,155,769 during the previous year.

Under the approved budget, the district plans to hire 11 new teachers, add 15 minutes to the elementary school day, improve the district’s mental health services, offer an in-school drug and alcohol intervention program, and add a pre-high school summer program.

The board also approved the application submission of a legislature-approved grant that could provide millions of dollars to offset the costs of a proposed bond measure expected to go before voters this November.

The Oregon School Capital Improvement Matching Program will distribute $40 million to school districts with bond measures on the table statewide. Up to $16 million is available through the "first in-time" lottery-based grant the district will pursue. The rest is allocated towards those in the priority-need category, which the district does not fall under.

"To not have a submission would be ridiculous," said board member Barry Albertson. "There's no reason not to do this."

At the meeting, the board continued to stress the need for public awareness about the range of programs the bond addresses, which includes plans to build a new elementary school on Bull Mountain, rebuild Templeton Elementary School and add safety improvements to schools across the district, among other projects.

During last weekend’s Tigard Festival of Balloons, the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools set up a booth to share information about the bond.

"A lot of parents came by and asked a lot of questions about the bond," said Board Vice Chairwoman Maureen Wolf.