Proposed district budget would cut positions, increase class sizes

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Proposed district budget would cut positions, increase class sizes

Published 9:28 p.m. PT April 26, 2017 | Updated 7:24 p.m. PT April 28, 2017

Classes will get bigger, nearly 70 positions will be cut, teachers will have less training, and aid for students in poverty will be reduced.

Those changes are the result of the Salem-Keizer School District’s 2017-2018 proposed budget.

The total proposed budget for 2017-18 is $671 million, about $6 million less than the current school year budget. (*$683 million as of June, 2017).

Superintendent Christy Perry said to maintain current service levels in the district, including increasing costs in PERS and health care, would require another $21 million for next year. That’s based on an $8.1 billion statewide K-12 budget.

To bridge that gap, Salem-Keizer officials suggest saving $11 million by automating financial systems, changing assumptions in cost of living and insurance costs, and having no growth in enrollment. The remaining $10 million gap would be bridged by transferring $6 million from the district’s PERS reserve fund, and by making $4 million in net cuts.

“It’s never easy to talk about difficult decisions, especially when it comes to financial issues out of our control,” Perry said. “We will make it through this together.”

Reductions

Four million dollars in net cuts means a mix of cuts and additions. The proposed budget calls for $9.2 million in cuts.

The district has been able to hire more full-time equivalent (FTE) staff since 2013. However, with this budget, the district will cut about 67 FTE positions.

Perry said employee costs are on the rise because of annual salary increases and cost-of-living and insurance increase, but this biennium also introduces a significant increase in PERS costs.

“This increase is not a surprise and one that the district has been preparing for over the last two years,” she said.

Rather than firing employees or having any other kind of “reduction in force,” the district would absorb these positions through attrition, meaning current staffers in these positions will be transferred and moved within the district.

These reductions would increase class size in some schools and some classrooms, she said.

The average class size at elementary schools would range from 23 to 30 under the proposed budget; middle schools would increase by about one student per class to an average of 32 students per class; high school averages would increase by less than one student.

In addition to position cuts, federal grant funds are expected to be reduced by nearly 10 percent or approximately $1.2 million. These federal funds pay for professional learning for teachers and administrators and supplementary services to students in poverty, Perry said.

Additionally, the Oregon Mentor Grant has not been renewed for the 2017-19 biennium. This represents a loss of $2.2 million to the district that would otherwise go to retaining young teachers.

Additions

Some programs would see an increase in funding under this budget, with a total of $5.2 million in additions included.

Measure 98 funding will allow the district to expand career-technical programs and drop-out prevention efforts. Salem-Keizer expects about $400 per student in Measure 98 funding, which equates to approximately $5 million dollars.

Perry said the district will add two new programs at the district’s Career Technical Education Center, more career technical education opportunities will be offered at Roberts High School — an alternative school in the district — and a district graduation specialist will be hired to focus on increasing the graduation rate for African-American students.

Additionally, the district has been awarded a federal grant to fund 80 percent of the cost of a $15.3 million project for high-speed fiber optic network connectivity to all of the schools and administrative buildings. She said completing this project requires 20 percent funding from the district.

Perry said the district committed $1 million to begin the work in the current budget and the remaining approximately $2.3 million to complete the project is included in this 2017-18 proposed budget.

State funding

Statewide budget shortfalls are causing districts to make cuts to their 2018-2019 schools budgets.

Salem-Keizer’s budget is based on a proposed $8.1 billion budget for statewide K-12 public education. However, Perry said she is preparing for the possibility of having to craft a budget based on the state’s co-chair budget, which brings the K-12 education budget to $7.8 billion for the next biennium.

“Surprisingly, the Co-Chairs’ budget, for the first time in my 12 years as a superintendent, actually was submitted at a dollar figure lower than the Governor’s proposal,” she said.

The $8.1 billion budget is a higher amount compared to the current biennium, Perry said. However, the budget does not keep up with increasing costs and will not permit schools to maintain current service levels.

Mindy Merritt, president of the Salem-Keizer Education Association, said state funding in Oregon was already behind in K-12 funding compared to other states before Measure 97, a measure on the November ballot that would have taxed corporations at 2.5 percent on sales.

“Had Measure 97 passed, life would be a lot different,” she said.

Merritt said she anticipates schools will feel the impact of the failed measure for a while; districts will have to craft their budgets accordingly.

Advocates for increased education funding have put pressure on the Oregon State Legislature throughout the session so far, which Merritt believes is pivotal to getting more money for schools, staff, and services.

“Our top priority is (an) equitable education for every child … (and) ensuring (our) members are not overburdened,” she said.

Next steps

The Budget Committee will hear testimony on the proposed budget at upcoming public hearings on May 22 and 23 at 6 p.m. at Support Services Center, 2575 Commercial Street S.E. Additional hearings will be held on May 24 and 25 if needed.

May 30 is scheduled for committee deliberations; public testimony will not be heard.

For more information, email brooks-lathers_kristy@salkeiz.k12.or.us. Budget documents, presentations, and recordings can be found online.

Contact Natalie Pate at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.

Reductions:

  • 25.25 Elementary FTE, $2.5 million
  • 13.85 Middle FTE, $1.4 million
  • 13.52 High School FTE, $1.4 million
  • 5.0 Reserve FTE (K-12), $0.4 million
  • 2.0 Administrator FTE, $0.3 million 
  • 7.0 Teacher on Special Assignment FTE, $0.8 million
  • Materials and Services, $2.4 million
  • Total Reductions: $9.2 million

Additions:

  • Behavioral Learning, $0.7 million
  • Instructional Mentors, $0.4 million
  • Fiber Project, $2.3 million
  • Principal on Special Assignment, $0.2 million
  • Elementary Literacy Curriculum, $0.5 million
  • Life Skills DLC Curriculum – K12, $0.4 million
  • Middle School Math & Intervention, $0.4 million
  • Miscellaneous, $0.3 million
  • Total Additions: $5.2 million

Over the years:

*Per Salem-Keizer budget documents

Enrollment:

  • 2017-18: 41,420*
  • 2016-17: 40,087
  • 2015-16: 40,532
  • 2014-15: 40,087
  • 2013-14: 39,820
  • 2012-13: 39,773

Licensed FTE:

  • 2017-18: 2,259*
  • 2016-17: 2,332
  • 2015-16: 2,161
  • 2014-15: 1,998
  • 2013-14: 2,094
  • 2012-13: 1,913

*Projected figures

Total Adopted Budget: 

  • 2017-18: to be decided (proposed $671 million)
  • 2016-17: $677,547,775
  • 2015-16: $665,720,876
  • 2014-15: $621,356,557
  • 2013-14: $563,891,655
  • 2012-13: $578,990,853

State funding:

*This is supposed to maintain current levels of teachers and programs.

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