Long range planning is a foreign concept to most school districts. While their product (children and families) certainly has a long range plan, that of graduating from high school, school districts often find it difficult to budget accurately even for the current year. The entire blame should not fall on the shoulders of the district and its business department, the state surely must carry a major portion of the burden.
The District 9 Budget Committee held a meeting May 13, which was an overview prior to the legislative May 15 economic overview. At that time the committee approved a revised budget schedule until state revenue and legislative action gave school districts a better financial picture. That decision resulted in meetings last week on June 18 and 19. The committee recommended approval of a budget in the amount of $59,229,891. A public hearing and special board meeting will be held Tuesday, June 30 at 5 p.m. in the board room.
The General Fund portion of the budget is $35,215, 387.
Dr. Dan Zaklan began a review of the district finances shortly after assuming the position of business service director last year. His first message to the school board was that expenditures exceeded revenue. That word came before districts were aware of the total impact of the economy.
In the fall of 2008, the district made its first move to reduce costs. Purchases were frozen. Next came the need to cut $2.1 million in the 08-09 budget to have at least $2.6 million in carryover. That left the district still spending $1 million over the revenue flow.
The District 9 budget for 2009-10 was initially based on the state budgeting $5.4 billion for education for the biennium. Thirty-six FTE (full time equivalent) positions were cut. In some cases this was due to retirement. With the retirement of WCE Principal Jay Sparks, the position was not filled but rather other principals took on more duties.
The state figure for educating Oregon’s students for the biennium came in at $5.6 billion. The state says it will give 49 percent of $6 billion next year. But, if that does not happen, the district will face cuts once again.
Another significant change in the district’s budgeting process can be found in athletics and activities. These two items are now easily identified in the budget- by sport, by staffing and by necessary supplies.
Not only have reductions been made over the past school year and planned for the upcoming year, budgeting philosophy has changed within the district.
In order to make reductions in spending and to plan for the future, absolute necessities for supplies for elementary classrooms were developed. This process was followed for the middle schools as well as the high school.
Once basic needs budgeting was done by principals, staff and administration, the next step being initiated is a planning budget. As an example, the district now has a complete list of all computers in the district. This includes, type, age, and so on. From that base, a plan can be developed for replacements on a five-year basis and it is designed to allow every classroom and every student equal access. The same planning process is being initiated throughout the district.
“There are a lot of risks with this budget,” warned Dr. Zaklan in his last session with the board and budget committee. He cautioned about building funds received one-time as a permanent part of a budget and he cautioned about the unsurety of the state finances and especially how much Oregon school districts will actually get in the second year of the biennium. He said the real carryover remains the same.
June 19 was Dr. Zaklan’s last day in District 9. He had been hired on an interim basis. Randy Struckmeier is the new business manager. He has been working with the business department and with Dr. Zaklan on the budget and revised budgeting process for the last month.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent