Board approves slightly reduced staffing in schools budget

The Lebanon School Board adopted a budget this week that will slightly reduce staffing levels in the 2019-20 school year.

The board adopted the budget during its regular meeting Thursday, June 13, after receiving Budget Committee approval on May 23.

“Balancing a budget predominantly allocated on staffing leaves few options in regard to adjusting for higher costs or reduced funding levels,” said Supt. Bo Yates in the budget message. “The proposed budget includes a small reduction in current staffing for certified, classified and administrative personnel. All reductions will be made through attrition and the reassignment of full-time equivalents. We have staff for all of our schools at 25:1, which is a small adjustment from our current staffing, which is set at 3:1.”

The General Fund budget is set at $46.7 million for 2019-20, an increase of $1.1 million from 2018-19.

Revenu increased by $3.1 million, a 7.72-percent increase.

Business Director William Lewis said the district faces an increase of $1.7 million in increased costs – to a total of $7.4 million – for the Public Employees Retirement System.

Additionally, the state adjusted revenue downward by $756,000 for 2017-18, Yates said, which will reduce the ending fund balance carried forward.

That adjustment is based on reconciliation of the 2017-18 fiscal year, Lewis said. The state overpaid based on what the district budgeted in local property tax revenue, which were higher than projected. He does not anticipate the same kind of adjustment for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

That leaves $668,000 in new revenue minus PERS expenditures, Lewis said.

The budget includes a 3-percent increase, approximately $1 million, to cover salary increases, Yates said. It increases special education and behavior support spending by $1.2 million. It brings in $1.2 million in Title I funding for reading support and summer school for kindergarten through fifth grade, $775,000 in IDEA funds for special education, $585,000 in Measure 98 funds to focus on improving student success in grades eight through 12 and $432,000 from the Education Service District for specific school supports, along with a carryover of $210,000.

“We must continue to improve our classroom culture, building expectations and support processes and delivery,” Yates said. “No student should have their ability to learn impacted by poor behavior or low expectations. It is essential that we continue to support our goals and priorities while improving our processes and systems.”

With the passage of HB 3427, the district may receive an increase in funding beginning in 2020, Yates said. That increase will allow the district to support programs at a higher level and provide funding for “targeted program extension.”

Any increases would require a supplemental budget to recognize the adjustments.

“This is the largest addition to education in Oregon in the last 30 years,” Lewis said, and it will have a huge impact. He expects the funding will come with strings attached by the Department of Education for specific purposes and agenda items.

While it’s exciting, Lewis said, “it’s not done until it’s done.”

If the district receives additional funding, Yates said, targets for additional spending would include increasing staffing and budget support to the 2018-19 level, mental health support, behavior support as needed, extended learning opportunities, lower classroom ratios for kindergarten through third grade, a dedicated music fund, increased funding for maintenance and custodial work, a career and technical education program for middle school students, a school volunteer coordinator, a CTE development coordinator, expansion of middle school athletics and an increase in the ending fund balance.

School Board Chairman Tom Oliver proposed reducing the General Fund ending fund balance by $250,000, from $1.9 million to $1.65 million to give the district the ability to keep positions if it needs them.

The district doesn’t have to spend it, he said, but it will be there if the district needs it.

It provides flexibility to a budget proposal that was not flexible, Lewis said.

The Budget Committee agreed and approved the proposed budget with that adjustment followed by board approval June 13.

The budget still has more FTE than it did last year, Oliver said. “The reality is we’re going to continue to operate the same way as we did last year.”

The General Fund budgets $21.9 million for salaries, $14.5 million in benefits, $5.4 million for purchased services, $1.6 million for supplies and materials, with $1.2 million in transfers to other funds and $1.65 million, 3.5 percent of the fund, in the 2019-20 ending fund balance.

Special service funds, which includes among them Title I, IDEA grants, grant programs, a PERS reserve fund, nutrition services, a technology fund, bus replacement and high school athletics, are budgeted at $4.4 million. The budget includes $4.1 million in debt payments.

All funds combined are $63.8 million for 2019-20, down from $64.4 million in 2018-19. The 2019-budget will have $4.3 million in all funds.  Personnel expenses in all funds are approximately $41 million.

Present at the meeting were Richard Borden, Chairman Tom Oliver, Nick Brooks and Mike Martin. Tammy Schilling was absent.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard a report that after-school reading programs across district elementary schools raised some 115 students an average of 21 points. On average, the students moved from the 15th percentile in the fall to the 36th percentile by spring, based on the STAR assessment.
  • The median for growth in reading was in the 67th percentile. The 50th percentile is considered typical growth.
  • Adopted new social studies curriculum for grades six through 12, with an update to the curriculum scheduled for kindergarten through fifth grade next year.
  • Approved a contract for Jennifer Meckley, the new assistant superintendent. Her salary is set at 90 percent of the superintendent’s at $127,000.
  • Approved an appropriation transfer of $50,000 to cover adjustments in the 2018-19 budget. Lewis said the district is projected to exceed funding for instruction by about $20,000 by June 30. The board’s action moved $50,000 from support services to instruction services to cover the expense and any unforeseen adjustments that come out of the final 2018-19 audit process.