State legislature adds $1.5 million to local school budget
The Crook County School District has an extra $1.5 million in its pocket after the final budget for the Oregon State School Fund came in higher than expected at $8.2 billion.
"The state's final budget is often different than the original proposed budget. The difference this biennium is that the dollar amount is quite substantial," said CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan.
Now, district officials must determine what to do with the unexpected cash.
"This extra funding could provide for unmet needs in the district as well as provide a barrier against future economic challenges," Logan said.
During the school board meeting Monday evening, administrators and board members shared some ideas of how the money could be spent.
Many of them wanted it to be put toward PERS reserves and set aside for remodeling the Pioneer North building, which most recently housed the Crooked River Elementary intermediate students.
CCSD Superintendent Duane Yecha recommended setting aside $1 million this year and next year to prepare for the future.
"That way, the board does not find itself short of elementary classrooms in the next few years," Yecha said, adding that the leftover funds could be used for staffing and programs.
Board member Scott Cooper liked the idea of making the old building serviceable, "But my highest priority is doing something about math," he said. "Our math program just isn't cutting it on the secondary level."
Others agreed that some of the funds should be used to train staff in math curriculum.
They also made hiring an elementary school counselor a high priority as well as employing a full-time district human resources person.
Others wanted some of the money set aside for the possibility of the school district eventually being required to provide preschool services to district children.
The AVID program was also mentioned, as was the K-12 career focus, and replacing old school buses.
The board and administrators will have a special school board meeting beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, July 17 at the district office to discuss budget addition considerations.
The district is not required to spend that extra money but may do so if it adopts a supplemental budget. Logan pointed out that it's beneficial to an organization's long-term financial health to find a balance between spending and saving.
If the board chooses to do a supplemental budget and add the full $1.5 million to appropriations, the total school district budget would increase to $52.328 million. The general fund budget would increase from $32,486,171 to $33,986,171.
The state creates a biennial budget, so every other year the funding level is relatively known. Since this is a new biennium, the dollar amount was estimated at the time the district created its budget based on the Co-Chairs' proposed State School Fund budget of $7.8 billion, explained Logan.
"Most school districts in Oregon needed that extra funding provided by the $8.2 billion funding level just to keep from cutting programs – in fact, many were advocating for $8.4 billion," she said.
"I've been around this for 30 years now, and this is new at this point in the school year," Yecha said of having more money than expected. "We've gotten money in September and October from the state before, but it was too late for hiring anybody."
The local district will receive an additional $1.5 million for the 2018-19 school year.
"The administration and board are thoughtfully weighing options because this is a very unusual circumstance," Logan said. "We want to make sure our decisions are strategic and will foster long-term stability."