Following an extremely short budget hearing and little discussion once the regular meeting commenced, the Wallowa County Education Service District (ESD) board voted Monday night to approve a $3,937,310 general fund budget for fiscal 2002-2003 and a $4,388,446 total appropriations budget. The budget represents a $3.7930 tax per $1,000 of assessed valuation on residents of Wallowa County.

In other business ESD superintendent Ed Jensen explained to the board that the results of a grant application for some $500,000 for school repair and renovation/idea and technology renovation will not be known until mid-August. The ESD and local school districts applied for the federal money in a joint application.

Jensen told the board that 126 school districts and ESD entities in Oregon had requested over $36 million in the program's grant funds. The money available to be distributed is slightly less than $9 million.

According to a school repair and renovation printout, the chances of getting funding for the school repair portion of the grant is 3.44 to 1, for the special education portion of the grant 5.21 to 1 and the technology portion of the grant 6.49 to 1.

The lease purchase agreement between the Wallowa and Troy school districts and the ESD was discussed. Both Wallowa and Troy will be investing $82,500 apiece to purchase one quarter of the Wallowa Valley Mall in which the ESD is located.

The other half of the mall is being purchased by the Wallowa County Health Care District to provide office space for surgeon Dr. Robert Berecz and possibly another family practitioner. The two school districts are each purchasing their portion of the mall as an investment, with the ESD buying the schools' half over a 10-year lease purchase.

The Oveson Ranch now owns the building and does not intend to close the sale until September.

Much discussion was heard about a proposed hold harmless clause written into a contract between the ESD and the Wallowa County Commission on Children and Family (WCCCF). Jensen did not like the clause and had spoken with ESD attorney Roland Johnson about having it taken out of the agreement before it is signed. Board chairman John Lawrence suggested a middle ground that the board decided to follow.

Instead of just striking the clause, it was agreed to have Johnson and district attorney Dan Ousley review it and possibly reach a compromise.

Jensen feared that the ESD could be held liable in the future for any unknown variables.

The board hired Courtney Summers and Monica Royse to fill vacant positions in the district. Summers was hired to work at the Wallowa Head Start program. Her salaried position will amount to about 27 hours per week. Royse's 10-hour per week position will place her at different school districts in Wallowa County working with disabled youngsters who do not qualify for special education assistance. One example given by Jensen would be for Royse to ensure that a youngster with a hearing deficiency sits in the front of the classroom.

At Jensen's request the board authorized the superintendent to spend up to $2,800 to improve lighting in the 38 percent of the building occupied by the ESD. He was also given permission to seek quotes for a heat pump to be placed on the roof. This would also be designed to serve the offices occupied by the ESD.   

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