Despite declining revenues, school district presents a lean budget with no cuts

Despite shortfalls from the local option levy and declining state funding, one-time revenues will help school officials in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District fund staffing in the 2012-2013 school year at the same level as this year. The plan will keep the budget lean while leaving current staff unharmed. One-time revenues include funds from the Parker Road sale and the opening of Trillium Creek and Lowrie primary schools.

The general fund budget is $68.6 million and has grown by only about .5 percent.

The school district's budget committee will meet again on Monday, May 21 at 7 p.m., and it hopes to wrap up that night. If not, a backup meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23. After that, the budget will be vetted in a public hearing followed by a school board adoption of the final budget on Monday, June 4 at 7 p.m.

Ever since late 2008, the school district has reduced its budget by cutting teaching and classified staff positions and taking furlough days. Just last year the district had to work with a gap of about $2 million between revenue and expenses. Though this year's budget assumes no more cuts, it also does not add back any of the positions that were removed.

This year, administrators crafted the budget assuming no more reductions to the state school fund, which has seen consistent downsizing in the past few years. They also estimated another $1 million shortfall to the local option levy, which has dropped to $1.8 million since its peak of $7.5 million in 2008-2009.

West Linn-Wilsonville School District officials presented the budget message on Monday at the first citizen budget committee meeting. Superintendent Bill Rhoades said he brings the budget forward with 'cautious optimism. ... Our school district, along with others across our state, has faced a serious gap between our ability to maintain high levels of excellence and our revenue."

The school district sold 7.5 acres of land along Parker Road near Tanner Creek Park to the city of West Linn this year for $1.2 million. The land is slated to be used for a new aquatics center. The West Linn-Wilsonville School District originally purchased it for $295,000 with capital bond proceeds in the early 1990s.

Another boon to the district is a state facility grant designed for districts who are adding facility space. The grant is estimated to be about $2.3 million for the next year.

Although the capital bond, which is funding the construction of Trillium Creek Primary, does not fall into the general fund, the school district's general fund benefits from purchases made with bond dollars. The district will use bond money to help purchase curriculum and supplies for two language immersion programs in Trillium Creek and Lowrie, as well as a world language program at all elementary schools next year.

Additionally, other bond money is helping to cross items off a maintenance list for all other school district buildings.

'If we didn't have the bond behind us here, then I'd be really worried about the roof that needed to be replaced or the boiler that might go,' Financial Director Doug Middlestetter said. 'Our buildings are in such great shape.'

In addition to one-time funds, administrators offset growing expenditures with a 12 to 14 percent reduction in building supplies and purchases. Middlestetter explained that the reduction is a line-item change only to reflect how the district has actually been spending this last year.

'This district has done an excellent job of saving and not spending as we go,' he said. 'In reflecting reality, I've had to trim that down so we can balance it, so ... it starts to look closer to how we operate.'

Staffing will not grow with the opening of Trillium Creek and Lowrie Primary schools with the exception of one additional principal. Health insurance for employees is increasing by $500,000 and employees will see no wage increases next year. Additionally, PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) rates will remain the same for the 2012-2013 school year but will reset the following year.

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