Randy Robbins, Pilot staff writer

The Central Curry School District is breathing easier after learning its budget for the 2013-14 school year is about $5.5 million - enough to keep from having to make major cuts to staff or school programs.

"This is certainly good news, but we're not out the woods yet," said Krystal Carpenter, the district business manager.

The school board is expected to officially adopt the budget during its regular June meeting.

The 11 members of the district's budget committee met with the school board May 22 to look at the proposed budget. The board consists of Carpenter, Karen Kennedy, Greg Marstall, Candy Perryman, Jerry Herbage, Marilyn Cohen, Julie Swift, Sharon Mathers, Katie Hensley, Amy Timeus, and Superintendent Jeff Davis.

The members listened intently along with a handful of teachers in the audience as Carpenter went through the budget page by page, line by line.According to Carpenter, "due to Oregon's economy slowly turning around, the (state) legislature has, for the first time in years, increased revenues earmarked to the district, increasing it from last year's $5.2 million to this year's $5.5 million."

This increase was a surprise because of an expected continued decline this year and next in student enrollment, which is directly linked to the amount of money distributed by the state.

"The increase in the general fund proposed budget is mainly due to the legislature increasing the amount of K-12 funding for the statewide 2013-15 biennium," Carpenter explained during an interview after the meeting.

She said K-12 funding for the 2011-13 biennium was approximately $5.7 billion, while the expected funding for the 2013-15 biennium is at least $6.55 billion.

"With increased funding, the near future financial picture is looking better, but it is still not looking good," she said.

A slight increase in the district's budget means there will be no furlough days or layoffs in the 2013-14 school year, she said.

Also, the gym roof will be replaced, Wi-Fi services will be available across the high school campus, and this district may add a mobile lab for teachers. The district will continue to provide summer school in both buildings.

There will not be enough money in the budget, however, to bring back classes cut in previous years or reduce current class sizes, Carpenter said.

"The district still does not have a music program, class sizes are higher than desired, and extracurricular programs are still running at a reduced level," she said.

Carpenter said the additional funding from the state came because the legislature is putting more emphasis on public education.

"After years of school districts cutting programs, laying off teachers and staff and shortening school years due to lack of funding, the legislature has taken steps to increase K-12 funding. The state's economy is finally starting to turn around and revenue estimates are slightly up."

With retirement rates set to skyrocket, the legislature has also been working on PERS reform, and thus, the passing of Senate Bill 822, she explained.

"The employer contribution rates that were previously announced for the biennium will be recalculated and lowered, although the rates will still be higher than what they were in the 2011-13 biennium," she said.

When asked how the failure of local public safety levy 8-71 will affect the schools, Carpenter said it will likely impact school enrollment.

"The information coming from the county indicates that the county could possible lay off over 50 employees and greatly decrease services to county citizens," she said. "As employees are laid off and services are eliminated, it is foreseeable that citizens will move out of Curry County, taking their children with them."

"The bottom line is: less students, less state funding. With less state funding, the school district will struggle to provide a quality education for its students."

The school district, she said, will continue to spend what money it can on technology-related programs for students.

"I don't see how school districts could not invest in technology in the years to come. It is the responsibility of schools to prepare students for college and to be productive members of our country's workforce. The use of technology will be required regardless what professions students choose," she said.

The proposed 2013-14 general fund budget contains nearly $165,000 for technology services. This includes a computer technician, server leases, various contracts with the South Coast Education Service District for technology-related services, Internet (including the first of three payments for Wi-Fi at the high school), various software programs and money for the upgrade of computer operating systems. There is also close to $40,000 budgeted in special grants for online computer classes, a possible mobile lab and other technology equipment for instructional use.

The district will spend about $145,000 to replace the gym roof. Other potential expenses included repairing or replacing old boilers and many exterior doors on the school buildings.