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Schools, County Agencies Brace For State Budget Cuts

POLK COUNTY -- Gov. John Kitzhaber has stated that the 2011-13 budget, released on Feb. 1, is an opportunity to restructure Oregon's financial house to provide for a stronger future.

POLK COUNTY -- Gov. John Kitzhaber has stated that the 2011-13 budget, released on Feb. 1, is an opportunity to restructure Oregon's financial house to provide for a stronger future.

While that may be the eventual goal in proposing the $14.75 billion state general and lottery fund budget, local schools and county departments are bracing themselves for cuts in 2011-12.

Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen said the departments likely to see cuts are Community Corrections and the Oregon Youth Authority, which could decrease the number of places where county juvenile offenders could be detained. Hansen said the proposed cut to Community Corrections was smaller than he expected.

"I was bracing for 15 to 20 percent cuts in Community Corrections, but the proposed budget has a cut of only 3.4 percent," he said.

The governor's budget also includes a proposal for creation of an Early Learning Council, consolidating several early childhood programs under one agency. If created, it could affect the county's Commission for Children and Families.

The governor's budget proposes $5.56 billion for schools in 2011-13, with 52 percent of it available in 2011-12.

Falls City School Superintendent Peter Tarzian said K-12 funding is far below what schools need to keep pace with increasing personnel and utilities costs or replacing disappearing stimulus funds.

Falls City approves a two-year budget, with the 2011-12 school year being the second year. Licensed and management staff have already taken pay cuts this year and the superintendent position will be consolidated with the elementary principal position in 2011-12. Tarzian estimates the district will be facing an additional 10 to 15 percent in savings and cuts in the next 12 months.

"This will almost surely mean personnel and/or program reductions, as well as salary concessions greater than those implemented in the current year," Tarzian said.

Mary Knigge, Central School District's business manager, said the proposed budget leaves Central schools facing a $1.2 million deficit in 2011-12, in addition to the $6 million cut during the last two years.

Knigge said the district is planning public meetings to discuss possible cuts. Three meetings have been scheduled for Feb. 24, March 15 and April 12.

The Dallas School District has proposed a possible cut list of $2.2 million, reducing staff, school days and athletics budgets.

(See related story on this page.)

Perrydale School Superintendent Robin Stoutt was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

Officials noted that the governor's budget is just the starting point from which the Oregon Legislature will begin debating.

"The bottom line is there are going to be cuts," Hansen said. "We are preparing for it and others should be too."

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