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State School Fund Gets Bump

POLK COUNTY -- Oregon lawmakers voted into law last week a $6 billion 2009-11 budget for K-12 education, rejecting vetoes by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in the process.

POLK COUNTY -- Oregon lawmakers voted into law last week a $6 billion 2009-11 budget for K-12 education, rejecting vetoes by Gov. Ted Kulongoski in the process.

Officials from Polk County school districts, however, said the changes will have little, if any effect on their own recently-adopted budgets for 2009-10.

The $6 billion biennial budget guarantees $5.8 billion in appropriations for school districts, and would add $200 million from state reserve funds in 2010-11.

Because of the House and Senate veto overrides, the K-12 appropriation is law without the governor's signature.

"With record unemployment and state revenues at risk of declining over the course of the biennium," Kulongoski said in a released statement, "I remain concerned that today's decision puts the state's long-term financial stability at great risk."

Oregon schools will get $2.9 billion of the total amount next year. Representatives from Central, Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale school districts said the outcome of the state's K-12 budget won't change much for them.

Joseph Hunter, Central superintendent, said the Oregon Department of Education will still have to figure out what allocations for individual districts will be.

"ODE will (notify) us of our actual resources and then we'll decide whether to adjust our budget or not," Hunter said. "Don't forget, this is a budget ... not actual resources in hand."

Until then, there won't be any adjustments or add backs to Central's $24.95 million budget for 2009-10, he said.

Dallas based its budget on an earlier state-estimated $5.6 billion appropriation for schools, with $400 million coming from a reserve fund.

The package approved by the Legislature technically provides the same amount, with a different reserve fund ratio, said Tami Montague, Dallas district business manager.

"Since the Legislature hasn't changed what the allocation will be for us for the first half of the biennium, we're going to stay with what we started with," Montague said.

Peter Tarzian, Falls City superintendent, said the budget amount won't alter any program or personnel cuts in his district next year.

It may, however, moderately reduce the number of non-instructional, planning and staff development days for which his employees are paid with state dollars, he said.

But decreasing the amount of the state budget that would have come from reserves is a positive because it gives districts more financial certainty, he said.

"It was appropriate for the Legislature to allocate reserves to locally-controlled districts," he said.

"To leave it in the state's hands simply would leave the reserves chest 'unlocked,' and therefore, fair game for all of state government should the economy worsen."

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