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Schools Should See Increase In Funding

POLK COUNTY -- Local governments across the state were keeping a close eye on the special legislative session that adjourned Oct. 2.Now that the dust has settled on the session and the collection of bills known as the "grand bargain," state and local officials will be in a "wait and see" mode to see how the changes will play out.The $5 billion cut to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), a huge win for Gov. John Kitzhaber, isn't quite official, as a trip to the Oregon Supreme Court is likely before anything permanent takes place.In either case, local government agencies won't see any effects immediately, as the changes to PERS will impact future, not current rates."In the future, the money that would have been added to our PERS cost is no longer there," Central School District Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said. "There's no direct money that comes from that this year."Dallas School District Business Manager Tami Montague said new PERS rates as a result of the changes likely won't be applied until July 2015.What is more concrete at least for school districts across the state is their share of the extra $100 million in state funding, raised through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases -- though that will not come until the 2014-15 school year.Falls City Superintendent Jack Thompson said regardless of the outcome on PERS, he's glad to see state lawmakers move to provide additional funding for schools."I think legislators are finally coming to the realization they have pared us down so far that we cannot function unless they give us more funding," he said.Falls City is slated to receive $37,628 in additional money in 2014-15. He said the funding could be used to hire a math teacher and possibly more support to further expand technology use in the district. He also noted a set of stairs added on to the back of the high school are in desperate need of repair.Central should receive around $500,000, which Brazeau is already looking to spend on a few wish list items."It makes sustainability a much easier target to hit," Brazeau said. "We've started a list at the cabinet level, which we will then start vetting out with our principals. We're then going to go through a process where everybody ranks where they think they are importance-wise."Dallas School District will receive about $500,000 in additional funds as well. Montague said the district will begin a similar process as early as November and finalize it with its budget committee in the spring.Perrydale School District is estimated to receive another $60,789.Oregon's public universities also received an additional $25 million with the passing of House Bill 5101, which will be used for a "tuition buy-down." Administrators at Western Oregon University aren't sure what the impact will be yet, but the average tuition increase across the Oregon University System is expected to be 2 percent, down from the current 3.5 percent.

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