DSD cuts days, faces further funding hurdles

DALLAS — Cutting days from the current year to counteract declining enrollment may be the beginning of budget adjustments for the Dallas School District.

The district received bad news about state funding earlier this month, prompting the board to approve cutting three days from the remaining 2017-18 schedule.

Dallas Business Manager Debbie MacLean said more cuts will be on the table in the 2018-19 budget proposal.

She said the State School Fund updated estimate for the district sent on March 2 had $624,000 less than the previous estimate sent in November.

“This is really an ADM (average daily membership) reset of our declining enrollment,” MacLean said.

Schools in Oregon are funded by the state based on how many students are attending, with additional “weights” for students who may need more resources to educate, such as those in special education or those learning English.

The district projected in December of 2016 a weighted ADM of 3,905.

The actual figure is 3,787. The reduction is a “correction” to make up for the district receiving funding for students that didn’t end up attending.

Previously, MacLean reported to the board that the district’s Common School Fund distribution was about $48,000 less than budgeted, so combined, the two setbacks amount to $672,000.

Thanks to some savings found in the budget, the total adjustment needed for the current year is $650,000.

“We’ve basically put a freeze on spending, except for what is essential, in the general fund,” MacLean said. “Other funds are spending as planned.”

Superintendent Michelle Johnstone said the district’s administrative team agreed to cutting days to help fill the funding gap. Those days are Friday (parent/teacher conference), May 4 (inservice), and the last day of school June 14.

“By saving those three days, it gives us $298,000 toward that $650,000,” Johnstone said. “Spending is frozen, so we’ll see if we can maximize our efforts there … otherwise it will be $350,000 out of our ending fund balance instead of $650,000.”

Looking toward 2018-19 year, the district submitted a further reduced estimate of 3,752 ADMw, which will require about $1 million in cuts in the budget proposal for next year, MacLean said.

Declining enrollment isn’t the only long-term funding challenge the district faces. The state’s Public Employee Retirement System costs will increase in the next biennium and the district must find ways to pay for educating high-cost students at rate beyond what the state pays for.

She said PERS rates will go up 6 percent, accounting for an approximately $943,000 increase annually based on the district’s current payroll.

“We know we have another hurdle coming in that next biennium,” she said. “This news has complicated and magnified that.”

High-cost students, defined as those that cost more than $30,000 to educate, including those in special education, cost the district about $1.5 million due to the system the state uses to reimburse districts for the cost of teaching those students.

MacLean said the district has about 70 high-cost students, which cost a little more than $2.9 million to educate. The state sends a little less than $13,000 each for those students and expects the district to cover up to $30,000.

Districts all over the state report costs above that threshold for reimbursement, but not all of that is covered.

That is because the state has $35 million available to meet all high-cost student requests, MacLean said. Last year, the district received about 60 percent of its submission.

MacLean expects the state to send about $512,000 of the $853,000 the district reported to the state.

“Again, if you look at a net cost, that still nearly $1.5 million that’s unfunded that we cover,” she said. “It’s a challenge, one of the challenges we face.”

The 2018-19 budget will be introduced to the district’s budget committee this spring.

“This is very concerning,” said Board Chairman Mike Bollman. “But we will figure out a way to do our best with the upcoming budget.”

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