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Hikes in state revenues key decision to adds some staff; pledge to stay conservative

Thanks to a boost in revenue, the Crook County School District is planning to add some new positions next school year but will continue to budget conservatively.

"The district has been fortunate to experience unforeseen advantages in the past few years in the form of added revenue and cost reductions," said CCSD Superintendent Duane Yecha.

The State School Fund revenue is based on the higher of two years' enrollment, and last year's enrollment was higher than this year's enrollment, explained CCSD Director of Business and Finance Anna Logan. "That means we will receive the higher revenue for the current year, but revenue will decrease next year."

The State School Fund estimate is projected at $8.2 billion for the biennium. The 2018-2019 school year is the second year of the biennium, and the State School Fund is split equally between the two years.

Among other things, the district will also get revenue from a transportation grant, Measure 98, which is the high school success fund, and Measure 99, which is the outdoor school lottery fund.

Even though the district is receiving more revenue in the current year, they have not made significant increases — which is helpful as revenue will decrease next year, Logan pointed out.

"We anticipate steady operations in the coming year. Careful and calculated risks have been effective and successful," Yecha said. "All of the programs that are currently in place continue to be fully funded in this proposal. No major budget cuts are necessary to balance this budget."

Logan reported that the 2018-2019 proposed budget is balanced with an ending fund balance of $1.6 million.

The proposed budget includes an addition of a Dean of Students for Crook County High School, with the intent of providing more time for the administrators to focus on their specialized responsibilities. Funding will come from the general fund.

The district also expects to add a second elementary counselor and a social worker for Pioneer Alternative High School, which will be funded by a newly awarded grant.

In addition, the budget provides for a continued focus on math instructional improvement, student access to technology, and investment in staff development for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination).

Ongoing maintenance will also be a priority for the district to ensure proper care of the community's investment.

"The budget proposal continues our commitment to timely address building and grounds maintenance," Yecha said.

The district budget also includes a number of safety improvements. They plan to add a part-time concussion evaluation specialist and a second School Resource Officer, both funded by the Local Service Plan. Expenditures of up to $500,000 are proposed from the Capital Reserve fund for safety and security upgrades to facilities, Yecha reported.

"Our schools are safer than ever, and this budget proposal further enhances and improves overall school safety," Yecha said.

Despite a positive outlook for next school year, the revenue surplus is not expected to continue.

In the coming year, revenue will decrease due to reduced enrollment.

Logan said they are budgeting for enrollment to stay the same, but for State School Fund revenue to go down.

"Next year, it will drop to be the same as we otherwise would have received in the current year," she explained.

"We must remain vigilant in preparing for the future while maximizing the present. Additions that increase costs should be made with caution," Yecha said.

Logan noted that even though the district will receive elevated revenue in the current year, some funds are being saved — rather than spent — to prepare for drops in future years.

"This enables us to continue with current service levels into next year," she said.

Since it is the second year of the biennium, PERS costs and revenue projections tend to be more certain. Yecha said they expect PERS rates to increase in the following biennium.

Increased funding for labor costs is included in this budget, according to contractual obligations, and reserves remain at a healthy level but are not scheduled to significantly increase, Yecha stated. If the district had planned to expend all of the savings it attained, they would be faced with rather large budget reductions in the 2018-2019 budget.

"Much of the progress made by our district can be attributed to successful budgeting strategy, by carefully comparing options against all competing priorities rather than making hasty, isolated decisions," Yecha said, noting that this budget proposal continues the district's focus on teaching and learning.

"Our efforts to improve instruction and student achievement focus on supporting principals and teachers in developing their professional practice and relationships with students in order to accelerate student learning," Yecha said.

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