The $49.1 million blueprint moves on to the school board for adoption

With one member dissenting, the Forest Grove School District budget committee last Thursday approved a $49.1 million operating budget for 2012-13, sending it forward to the school board for adoption.

The budget contains $3.1 million in reductions, including six school days off the calendar, a dozen teaching positions, cuts to special ed and counseling, elementary PE and music programs, athletics, activities and administrative staff.

'Nobody was happy at all about any of it,' said committee vice-chair Fred Sherrill, who voted in favor of the financial plan. In some ways, he said, approving the budget 'felt even harder than last year,' when the committee and the board sliced $7.5 million from the 2011-12 budget.

Angela Arena, one of the newest members of the panel with a granddaughter in the district, voted no on the motion, saying she wanted an additional week to receive input from the community.

'I was disappointed that the committee didn't decide to give the community more time to give feedback,' Arena said Monday. 'We could have met on [May] 24. I didn't feel like we got all their ideas out there.'

Arena, who works at the Forest Grove Library, also said she was in favor of 'making less cuts to people working most closely with children,' adding she didn't think the committee 'had ample chance to offer those alternatives.'

Sherrill said he despaired over the huge Public Employee Retirement System payments the district will face over the next five years, saying 'the PERS thing is going to kill it all.

'I'm hoping somewhere there'll be an effort to address funding statewide,' he said, adding that he's 'frustrated with the whole thing.'

Sherrill said there was a sense among committee members at the meeting May 17 'to just get it over with' and vote to approve the budget, something the committee has the power to do only in an advisory role.

'All of a sudden it was moved and seconded to approve, and bam! It was done,' Sherrill said.

While the board has the authority to change the final figure by 10 percent up or down, the budget committee can only OK a bottom line number.

The school board is scheduled to debate the budget proposal after a public hearing June 11. That meeting is set for 6 p.m. at the district administration building, 1728 Main St., Forest Grove.

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