The Curry Coastal Pilot

GOLD BEACH andndash; The Central Curry School District took the first of five furlough days being imposed following the defeat of a local option levy Tuesday as officials begin looking for ways to make up a huge shortage for next school year.

"We started furlough days to save a little money," Superintendent Jeff Davis said. "We will take three Fridays, a Monday and teachers leave a day early at the end of school."

Voters defeated the five-year levy 1,137 to 901, or 55.81 percent to 44.19 percent.

Davis met with staff Wednesday afternoon, then met with the school board Wednesday night.

"We will have to figure out how to cut $400,000," he said.

Much of the budget problem is caused by enrollment at the Gold Beach School District continuing to slide.

The schools have lost nearly 150 students in the last six years, which the superintendent is blaming mostly on the area's continuing high unemployment rate.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of different things, but it's mainly the economy," Davis said. "There's not a lot of jobs in Gold Beach."

Six years ago, there were 640 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12. As of earlier this year, the current numbers are down to 493, Davis said.

The projection for next year is approximately 460, he said.

He said the district has lost students whose parents worked for the county and have either been laid off or are worried about the county's future solvency. Also, some families have been affected by layoffs at the Curry General Hospital, he said.

The decline in enrollment means less state funding for the district, which typically receives about $5,800 per student, Davis said.

"When we lose that amount of money, then we have to turn around and find ways to balance our budget," he said.

Right now, the district is looking at a $400,000-plus deficit for next year.

To balance the budget, the district will be forced to cut more programs, school days and lay off more staff.

The levy defeated Tuesday proposed a tax of 85 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for five years beginning in fiscal year 2012-2013.

The Central Curry voters last September defeated a three-year local option levy by a similar vote.