School board hears update on budget health

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Lebanon Community School District Director of Business Services William Lewis III gave an update on the health of the budget at the Dec. 8 school board meeting.
Lewis said he refers to where they’re at now as the “peak budget,” the time when they “start heading down the hill a little bit.” He described it as a period when revenue begins to slow and small cuts are made in the budget. Over time, he said, those “small haircuts” add up to a significant deficit, but what they were seeing was nothing out of the norm.
“Pre-COVID, our revenue was really outpaced by our expenditures for the prior 30 years,” he said. “You’d have years where you go up and years where you go down, but the bottom-line trend is that our expenses would outpace our revenue. We’re kind of heading back into that environment.”
The Department of Administrative Services recently released its biennial 2023-25 budget at $9.5 billion, but according to Lewis, the first payment to the state school fund will be an $88 million cut.
“In this environment we’re kind of seeing our expenses are rising at a much higher rate than that,” he said.
But he forecasted that advocacy and conversations may help “push that number up” in the first six months of Gov. Tina Kotek’s term.
Meanwhile, districts across the state are preparing for a “fiscal cliff,” thanks in part to “healthy funding” from the government during COVID-19, he said. He added that revenue for Lebanon’s district, however, looked positive, which could make the first part of that biennium look good.
Lewis also provided a brief update regarding the Seven Oak Middle School expansion project. The district held a pre-bid meeting in November for the expansion that included learning space for sixth-graders who would be moved from the elementary schools (with the exception of Hamilton and Lacomb). Bids will be reviewed on Dec. 22.
The expected $5.1 million project includes three classrooms, an indoor exercise area, an outdoor covered area and disability-accessible bathrooms. The building will be a fabricated metal standup that resembles a standard school building, Lewis said.