School district maintains budget 'status quo'
In the second year of the Oregon Trail School District's budget biennium, the district is fortunate to say there are no surprises.
While other area schools are suffering from necessary layoffs and budget cuts, Oregon Trail is "maintaining the status quo," noted district Business Director Tim Belanger.
"This is the second biennium, so there are very modest changes," Belanger added.
"We just haven't been in the position other districts around here are," Communications Manager Julia Monteith said.
The school board adopted a budget of just more than $68 million at its June 25 meeting.
Within that $68 million no cuts to faculty or programs were made, in fact the district gained 1.1 full-time employees.
However, Belanger noted many districts are awaiting the outcome for the next biennium of 2019-2021 with baited breath. The state is likely to then see a 6 percent payroll increase in PERS, which pencils out to about $1 million per year for the district in additional expenses.
Though Oregon Trail goes to great lengths to keep the budget impact of statewide increases such as these minimal, it is still up in the air how the state will divide the pot between districts as it shrinks to accommodate the PERS inflation.
"That's the one that will really put a challenge at the state level," Belanger said. "Every time some new legislation comes it's well-intended, but (creates a challenge in funding)."
Though the district hasn't had to make cuts this year, it has not been without difficulty.
"One of the largest challenges we've had this last year is growth in IEPs," Belanger noted. "That's a significant cost."
That said, Belanger said, "we have no problem adding where there's a bona fide need."
"That is our M.O.," he noted.
The district will complete facility assessments on all of its buildings in the near future in an effort to assess what other "bona fide needs" there may be.
"With the completion of the new Cedar Ridge Middle School, we spent out the last of our 2009 bond fund," Belanger explained. "But, we're cognizant of the tax load on folks."
If improvements to facilities are found to be needed, the district has only one option at the moment — a local option levy.
"We have been hesitant though to seek additional resources like that," Belanger said. "We're cautious of the burden we put on our community. We've positioned ourselves with our finances and resources to give ourselves adequate time to transition given an alternate reality."
This applies to any needed renovations and/or statewide increases.
"At this juncture (our budget) appears to be stable for the upcoming year," Belanger added. "We see about a 1 percent average growth in enrollment, (and) because our enrollment is moving forward, that's really a stabilizing factor in our district. We can concentrate now on teaching kids."