Local schools are among the casualties of a dismal Oregon economy with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates.
State revenue cuts means less money to schools, and the three Wallowa Valley school districts are dealing with it in different ways.
Wallowa, Joseph and Enterprise school district budget committees all approved budgets last week. While the state won't release its final school revenue forecast until this Friday, the local budgets are based on earlier forecasts, which ranged from $5.4 to about $6 billion in state funding for K-12 education in the entire state for the next two years.
Public budget hearings for all three districts and adoptions of the budgets by school boards will be held in June.
All three districts are using general fund reserves to help weather a reduction in state school funding in their budgets.
In fact, Enterprise is depending on carryover funds of about $712,000 to bridge the budget gap for the next year, and is cutting no programs or staff at this time.
The Joseph district is cutting half of a teaching position and absorbing alternative education into the regular high school.
The Wallowa district plans the deepest cuts and most changes, with a reduction of a total of 2.5 staff positions to balance its budget - plus use basically all of its general fund reserve in the next year.
Following is a short rundown of how each district superintendent prepared the budget.
Wallowa School DistrictAll levels of staffing at the Wallowa School District will be affected by the new budget, with a lot of shifting around planned, to result in the net loss of 2.5 staff positions, according to superintendent Bob Sisk.
The 2009-10 budget just approved by the district budget committee was based on the state budget biennium estimate of $5.4 billion, and relies on about $500,000 in reserves, as well as slashes in staffing and other areas.
The approved general fund budget for the next fiscal year is $2,889,294, with the total budget - which includes federal title money, grants and a variety of special funds - at $4,887,012.
"This budget is based on a worse case state forecast, but I didn't want to deal with interim cuts," Sisk said, adding, "We're getting precariously close to being not able to make any more cuts."
Some of the major changes in store for the Wallowa district next school year:
Though he will retain some administrative duties, high school principal John Nesemann will step down from that position, and will teach woodworking. Superintendent Bob Sisk will increase from .6 to .8 of fulltime. The present part-time shop position will be eliminated.
Dr. Dawn Crow is retiring at the end of the school, and her position as business and electives teacher, as well as counselor, will not be replaced.
In the elementary school, a half-time library position and half-time special education position funded by the district will be eliminated. (Librarian Marcie Sheehy will become the kindergarten teacher, as other teachers also shuffle around in the elementary school). The Wallowa School Foundation is expected to continue to fund a library aide position.
The sixth grade will move from being part of the elementary school to the high school building to join the seventh and eighth grade as part of the middle school.
Middle/high school track and field was changed to a volunteer extra-curricular program with no district funding.
Joseph School District"We still don't know for sure what we'll get," said Joseph superintendent Rhonda Shirley. "I took the estimate they gave me in March, and cut 10 percent. The cuts translate to about $150,000 from last year's budget, she said.
"We're cutting alternative education program, which we shared with Enterprise," Shirley said, adding there were only two alternative ed students this year "We're going to try alternative education "in house," Shirley said.
A part-time language arts position, now filled by Spanish teacher Val Nesemann, will be cut. Next year, art teacher Olivia Slippy will teach two periods of Spanish, eliminating two periods of art from her schedule.
The total general fund budget approved by the budget committee is $3,332,000; the entire budget is $5,981,000.
In her budget message, Shirley notes that the Wallowa County Education Service District has chosen to spend its reserves and not charge for some services that would normally cost the district $100,000. Included in the budget is federal funds in the form of stimulus packages for title programs.
One positive, Shirley notes, is that the district enrollment looks like it will be fairly stable, with 23 graduates balanced by 26 incoming kindergarteners.
"It's a guessing game. We just built our budget on our best estimate. Until the legislature passes its budget, there are no guarantees, and not even then," she said.
Enterprise School DistrictThough Enterprise will cut no programs or staff this year - a direction desired by the school board - superintendent Brad Royce admits that he's worried about the future. "I'm scared to death," he said. "I'm very concerned that we're using up our cash carry over." The Enterprise district has a reserve of about $2.1 million, and Royce said the 2009-10 budget depends on $713,00 in that reserve money - or about one-third of the total - to balance.
The approved budget is based on an estimated $5.6 billion biennial funding by the state.
In his budget message, Royce points to nine years ago, when the district overspent its budget by $700,000 per year and used up a $1.4 million carryover in two years. "Then we had no reserve and had to lay off 17 teachers and an equal amount of classified staff and administration. We have to be careful not to do that again."
He said that it is likely that next year possible cuts that affect staffing and programs will have to be examined.
The district's approved 2009-10 general fund budget is $4,989,863, with an overall budget of about $9 million, which includes funds for the biomass project and the remainder of a school improvement bond in the Enterprise district.
Royce said while the decline in enrollment has slowed, it has not stopped; an outgoing graduating class of 44 will be replaced with approximately 26 kindergarten students.