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SCHOOLS FACING MAJOR BUDGET CUTS

By SCOTT GRAVES

Canceling this year's summer school and charging students for textbooks and to play sports were some of the options presented to the Brookings-Harbor School District budget committee Tuesday to help erase a $1 million shortfall for next year.

The nine-member committee was also asked to consider laying off the maintenance supervisor, a full-time grounds person and reducing the superintendent to part time.

Leaving seven open teaching and staff positions created by retirements and resignation was also an option presented to the committee.

"This will be the year when the wolf of inadequate public school funding finally reaches our schoolhouse doors,' Superintendent Paul Prevenas said in his budget message to the committee.

"The stories we have read for the past few years about other school districts facing staff reductions, program eliminations, ‘pay-to-play' athletics and other problematic budgetary situations have now become our own story here in District 17-C for the upcoming school year."

School districts throughout Oregon are facing similar and even more drastic cuts after the Legislature cut approximately $112 million to public schools.

The State School Fund for 2002-03 was also cut by $200 million, but that reduction could be replaced by a $220 million withdrawal from the Education Endowment Fund, if voters approve Measure 13 at the May 21 Primary Election.

The balance would lower the overall cut to public schools to $92 million.

However, the Brookings-Harbor School District is taking the worst-case approach in believing that voters will reject Measure 13.

Already the district's schools have reduced expenditures for the current school year by approximately $775,000.

But the district needs to reduce expenditures, or raise additional money through fees, by approximately $1 million, Prevenas said.

"It should go without saying that the proposed reductions included in this budget are all very undesirable," Prevenas said.

"Certainly no one advocates for any of these reductions. However, with an obligation to bring a balanced budget to the budget committee, and to further maintain a significant cash carry over (of $1.3 million) per school board action at their March meeting, the administration had no alternative but to include significant cuts for the upcoming fiscal year – above and beyond those reductions already made..."

The proposed budget was drafted by Prevenas and the district's business manager Valerie Shapton, with input from the teachers' union and the building principals. It provided three alternative paths to achieving an overall balanced budget:

•An "all cuts and new fees" budget plan.

•A shortened school year plan, which would eliminate the need for laying any people off.

•A reduced cash-carry over plan that would reduce the cuts by using some of the district's anticipated $1.3 million cash carry-over for next year. Most of the money spent could be replaced by selling a district-owned duplex and house on Fern Avenue.

The district's three principals and the teachers' union have come out against the shorter school year option. Prevenas recommended the committee seriously consider the "all cuts and new fees" plan.

The administration has identified a core set of budget reductions or new fees "absolutely necessary to achieve a balanced budget" for all three of the alternatives described above.

The core set of reductions include not filling:

•Four full-time teachers: one at Kalmiopsis Elementary School, two at Azalea Middle School and one at Brookings-Harbor Highschool. Savings: $265,000.

•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 administration also recommended eliminating $358,000 for both school-level and district-wide supplies, equipment, professional development, staff travel and other expenditures.

The cancelation of summer school for this year was recommended as well.

The proposed core budget plan also included new fees such as:

•"Pay-to-play'' at the high school ($100 per student) and the middle school ($50 per student).

•A $25 student textbook/workbook fee for all students in first through 12th grade. Savings: $98,000.

•A student parking fee of $50 per space at the high school.

•Increase in meal prices at the different schools. (Note, this would have to be approved by the school board at a future meeting.)

•Charging non-students $50 per weekend and $25 per week night to use school facilities such as classrooms and gyms.

The first action taken by the budget committee was to select a chairperson and vice-chair person.

The committee selected Pat McVay as chairman and Paul Rosenthal as vice-chairman. The rest of the members are citizens Frank Cembellin and Tom Kerr, and school board members Brian Larsson, Jeanne Sever, Mary Anderson, Bill Ferry and Larry Anderson.

After receiving the budget message from Prevenas, the committee members asked several questions, including how the school's existing lottery funds of approximately $238,000 would be spent.

Shapton said the money, which can only be spent on state-specified items, will be used to purchase $110,000 in science curriculum for the schools, $43,000 will go toward repair and maintenance of the schools, and another $45,000-plus will be used to purchase computers and other necessary equipment.

The committee voted to meet again May 1 to discuss the budget options, establish priorities and ask more questions.

Toward the end of the meeting, Judy Angel, a district employee who works at the high school, encouraged the committee "to visit the schools. Talk to the teachers and the kids and put faces to the numbers."

Editor's note: A comprehensive story on the budget, with a breakdown for each school, and the entire budget summary will be published in Saturday's edition of The Curry Coastal Pilot.

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