The Wallowa School Board cut an additional $263,185 from its 2003-2004 school budget Monday night, but refrained from taking additional cuts which would have affected sports programs.
Two months earlier Superintendent Ed Jensen presented the board with two tiers of possible budget cuts for the board's consideration. The board passed the first tier, but voted 3-2 not to take any action this year on the second tier which included the sports of wrestling, golf and junior high school football as well as potential cuts for a half time reading/health/physical education position, a school aide position, the year book and multimedia program and nearly a $35,000 cut in the business program.
The second tier, if passed in total, would have saved the district an estimated $121,287 each year.
A crowd of nearly 30 patrons and students spoke up vociferously in favor of the wrestling program which, according to head wrestling coach Jason Crenshaw, had 10 student participants by the end of the wrestling season.
Pressed for his personal opinion on the matter by board member Wylie Frei, Jensen said that every other aspect of the budget has taken hits over the past three years and that it was time for athletics to take some hits as well.
Jensen informed the board and the audience that a total school staff of 43.2 FTE, including Monday's cuts, has been reduced to 30.7 FTE since June of 2001. This amounts into a 28.9 percent reduction in staff.
Frei suggested that students from other school districts will transfer to the Wallowa school system if Wallowa, with more cash reserves than many schools in Oregon, does not lower the quality of education it offers. "I think we stand to gain enrollment if we hang tight," he said.
Frei, Chairman John Johnson and Don Stonebrink voted not to touch the Tier 2 programs, while Keith Bird and Karen Josi voted against Frei's motion.
The Wallowa school population has dropped 16 students, or another $80,000 in state funds, since the school year began.
Among the proponents of wrestling was Geniene Taylor - the mother of Wallowa wrestler Tehran Taylor who placed fourth in state at the 135 lb. weight class - who urged the board to continue the wrestling program.
The current Wallowa School District budget is $2.82 million and anticipated to go down markedly over the next year because of revenue cuts from the state and declining enrollment figures. Jensen said that he is estimating that the district will receive $4,700 for each child in the next year, but emphasized the point that the figure is an approximation.