Decision-makers eye one-time purchases that won't rely on continued funding

Classroom assistants, building repair and technology could be some of the goodies purchased for local schools now that Washington County Commission Chair Andy Duyck and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey have announced Gain Share revenues for the current fiscal year will be $6 million more than expected.

Last week, Duyck and Willey proposed sharing half that amount — $3 million — with Washington County’s seven public school districts for 2014-15, bringing the total Gain Share funding to $13 million over a two-year period.

In June 2013, Duyck and Willey had pledged $10 million in Gain Share funds over a two-year period.

“We’re committed to continuing our partnership with local schools by supporting our school districts,” Willey said. They are announcing the new funding now so schools can begin planning how to use it, he said.

Under the plan, which would distribute funds on a per-student basis, Forest Grove School District would see an additional $579,000; Banks School District an additional $102,000; and Gaston schools $60,000.

“There are a million different ways you can use that funding,” said Forest Grove School District Chief of Staff Connie Potter. “Last year we used some Gain-Share funding to add some additional staffing to lower those class sizes — not necessarily teachers, sometimes an instructional assistant.”

With no guarantee that the money could be continued year to year, administrators are cautious.

“It’s not wise to hire staff on a one-time fund, so we’d be looking at some technologies,” said Banks Superintendent Bob Huston.

Last year, with just $68,000 the district’s Gain Share funds brought wi-fi to Banks schools and bought 120 iPads, he said.

Maintenance projects are another option. Banks Elementary School needs some external repairs, Huston said, “and the district office has a special education secretary in the lower level of the office but there’s no reliable heating system.”

The Banks School Board will probably decide what to do with the money at an August work session said Huston, noting that “I have my top-of-the-list things I want to spend it on and the board has their top-of-the list things.”

Official approval of the proposal is anticipated after consideration by each taxing district that participates in property tax abatement agreements in Washington County, including the county, the city of Hillsboro, Metro, the Port of Portland and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. “Gain Share allows local governments that have abated property taxes ... to channel some of the state income tax dollars that we generate back into the local community,” Duyck said.

“Whenever you get more dollars it’s great news for the district,” Potter said.

Reporter David Roza contributed to this story.

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