Governor proposed $6.15B

A state budget proposal two legislators unveiled Monday would allocate more dollars to Oregon school districts than the governor’s recommended budget.

“Oregon’s Turning Point Budget,” authored by Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Peter Buckley, proposes designating $6.55 billion for K-12 education in 2013-15. In addition to those general fund/lottery fund dollars, Devlin and Buckley would offer $200 million in savings on public pension costs in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

“We’re asking retired public workers for a reduction in their yearly cost-of-living increases,” the document states.

Devlin, D-Tualatin, and Buckley, D-Ashland, are co-chairmen of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which determines state budget policy. Their proposal will inform legislators, who will later vote on agency budgets. Devlin’s district includes Lake Oswego, West Linn and portion of Southwest Portland.

Gov. John Kitzhaber had proposed $6.15 billion for schools in his two-year budget and, for PERS, about the same amount Devlin and Buckley had proposed.

Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Bill Korach is pleased with the direction the Legislature is going. Korach said he is keeping in mind that the budget’s not official, and the legislative session isn’t over yet.

If the district does have more money than expected, it would be able to save teaching jobs.

“The question is how many,” Korach said.

The district had been looking at snipping $1 million from its budget annually for the next three years starting in 2013-14. Seven to 11 teaching positions were to be eliminated next fiscal year.

But, there are a lot of other factors to keep in mind, Korach said. Looming federal budget cuts could affect the district, and the district’s local opAtion levy, which brings in about $6 million in revenue annually, is up for renewal in November. Another variable is how much major district supporter Lake Oswego Schools Foundation will contribute. Its campaign raised $1.8 million in 2011-12, and 94 percent of donations go straight to teachers’ salaries.

The co-chairmen’s proposed budget would allow other districts to avoid making further reductions as well, states the Oregon School Boards Association in a statement issued Monday. Yet, the budget still could make it difficult to restore programs or employees that have been eliminated in recent years, according to OSBA.

“Investing in our children and their education should be our highest priority,” said Betsy Miller-Jones, OSBA’s executive director, in a prepared statement. “We cannot continue to shortchange our most precious resource: our children, the next generation of Oregonians.”

Devlin and Buckley’s document recommends the K-12 budget be the first major budget the state Legislature passes.

“We believe this can be accomplished by late March or early April if the political will exists to do so,” stated the budget.

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