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SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES BUDGET

By SCOTT GRAVES

Working without final revenue numbers from the Oregon Legislature, the Brookings-Harbor School Board Monday had no choice but to move ahead and approve its final budget of $27.9 million for the 2002-03 school year.

The budget includes $14 million in school bond money set aside to cover the cost of major construction this year and next.

District Superintendent Paul Prevenas told the board he didn't expect any financial problems once the Legislature reaches a balanced budget and has definite revenue amounts.

"We took a very conservative approach; we took it as a worst-case scenario," Prevenas said.

On Saturday, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a package of bills that balances the state budget and eliminates the $859 million deficit. The package will go to the Oregon Senate for its approval.

However, a final decision, along with the final revenue numbers, is not likely to be available by June 30, the deadline by which all public school districts must have approved budgets for the 2002-03 year.

House Majority Leader Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, said the package approved Saturday would restore $20 million in previous cuts to K-12 education. The package includes a modified "rainy day fund" measure for schools which would provide $180 million immediately to public schools. Voters will see the measure during a special election in September.

Voters rejected a similar measure, Measure 13, in May that would have given schools $220 million from the Education Endowment Fund.

If public schools are to receive additional funding once the state budget is balanced, Prevenas said the school board has several options on how to allocate it.

If the extra amount is less than 10 percent of the district's total budget, then the board can decide where to spend it.

If the amount is more than 10 percent, the district must reconvene the budget committee, which would make recommendations to the board.

Based on current information out of Salem, Prevenas said he did not expect any extra funding to be 10 percent or more.

Valerie Shapton, the district's business manager, said the amount, based on recent indications, would be around 2 to 3 percent, or approximately $800,000.

The budget approved by the school board Monday calls for no student fees, no layoffs and puts an additional $39,000 back into the classrooms for supplies. It also retained the School Resource Officer position, at the cost of $37,000 a year, and maintains a $1.14 million cash carry-over.

However, the budget also calls for:

•The cancellation of summer school next year. Savings: $42,000.

•Not filling open full-time teaching positions at Kalmiopsis Elementary School, Azalea Middle School and the high school. Savings: $265,000.

•Not filling a full-time counseling secretary position at the high school. Savings $24,000; a part-time laundry worker. Savings: $7,000; a part-time nurse's aide. Savings: $12,000.

The budget eliminates $358,000 for both school-level and district-wide supplies, equipment, professional development, staff travel and other expenditures. It also saved an additional $70,000 by increasing school meal prices and not hiring people for recently created positions.

The $27,915,503 budget is shared among four categories:

•$12.1 million will go to the general fund, including $7.2 million for instruction, $4.2 million for support services, $7,500 for transfers and a $650,000 contingency fund.

•$1.7 million will go to the special revenue funds, including $997,973 for instruction, $291,357 for support services, $471,930 for enterprise and community service, and $6,651 in a contingency fund.

•$794,670 is part of the debt service fund related to the school bond project.

•$13.2 million will be used to cover the school bond construction projects.

In approving the final budget, the school board also approved a property tax rate for the 2002-03 tax year of $3.2494 per $1,000 of assessed value on all taxable property within the district.

One issue that was brought up Monday was the cash carryover of $1.1 million, which includes selling the district-owned duplex and house this year.

Board member Larry Anderson asked: "We need to sell the duplex and house in a timely manner to make sure we have enough money next summer?"

Shapton said yes.

Anderson responded, "Then selling it is an integral part of balancing the budget for next year."

Prevenas acknowledged the risk involved in trying to sell the property, but told the board he was confident it would sell.

"Steps are already being made; we're not dragging our feet on this," he said.

Additionally, the district had asked its accounting firm to make sure the $1.14 million cash carryover was enough to cover its summertime costs between state payments.

The firm sent a letter, reviewed by the board Monday, saying $1.14 million "should be enough" to meet the estimated requirement of $850,000 to $900,000 the district needed while waiting for state funding.

However, the firm stated "this will leave the district little margin for unanticipated expenditures or requirements that may be out of the district's control during the 2002-03 year or as the 2003 year begins."

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