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West Linn-Wilsonville superintendent submits 2019 budget proposal that reveals challenges

Superintendent Kathy Ludwig submitted the West Linn-Wilsonville School District's proposed general fund budget of more than $119.7 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year, an increase of about $7.1 million from the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Though state funding has increased, the school district plans to reduce staff positions and programs.

The 2019-20 budget proposal is based on an anticipated state funding level of $8.87 billion to support K-12 school districts from 2019-2021, but the state funding level is subject to change before the approval of the budget in June.

"While $8.87 billion is an increase from the past biennium ($8.2 billion), unfortunately it is not enough to accommodate roll up costs to maintain current programs and personnel," Ludwig said in her budget message during the April 22 board and budget committee meeting. "And it is well below what is needed to adjust for increase to PERS (Public Employee Retirement System)."

PERS costs are expected to cost the WL-WV School District $3.5 million each year of the new biennium.

The submitted budget includes a $3.5 million reduction in expenses for the upcoming school year, which would reduce staff and programs significantly and impact class size.

The school district's plans include cutting 18 full-time employees and one administrator position.

Ludwig said the district plans to suspend adoption of a curriculum that needs an update like the purchase of new textbooks and accompanying materials and the implementation of increased PE/wellness instructional hours in primary schools.

Professional development and educator conference opportunities would also be reduced. If funds are increased beyond $8.87 billion, the school district would restore these reductions.

The projected local option revenue of more than $9.9 million, if renewed, would help fund about 80 teachers. The local option tax, which doesn't expire until after the 2019-20 school year, wouldn't impact this year's budget.

Since the governor has decided to continue funding $170 million for Measure 98 — which expands career and technical education program opportunities for students — for the 2019-21 biennium, the district plans to target dropout prevention strategies and expand college-level education opportunities and CTE programs — all areas that are connected to school attendance and graduation rates.

Public comment will be allowed at the budget committee meeting 6 p.m. Monday, May 13, at the WL-WV district office.

In response to the Long Range Planning Committee's recommendation of seven capital projects, which will cost an estimated $206.8 million that could potentially be funded by a capital bond measure on the November 2019 ballot, 400 likely voters in the WL-WV community were surveyed over the phone to see if a bond would be favored.

The polling also included questions regarding the renewal of the district's local option tax, which currently funds about 80 teachers.

Questions about the quality of education in the school district, the condition of district facilities and what their highest funding priorities would be if the levy was renewed were asked to different subgroups of voters that included varying age groups, genders, political beliefs and whether or not voters had a student currently in the district.

Polling results from the WL-WV community presented no red flags if the school district decided to go out for a bond and renew the local option tax.

While voters were divided over the physical condition of WL-WV facilities, the polling company said — in its experience — the more voters that said "poor" or "fair" condition, the more likely they are to support a bond.

About three-quarters of voters felt positively about the quality of education students receive in the district and funding teachers and support staff was the highest priority for voters if the levy was renewed.

If the district decides to go out for a bond and levy simultaneously, it's predicted that 49% of voters would support both.

The message that the bond would target overcrowding by constructing new schools, improve safety and increase CTE opportunities with no increase to the current tax rate, were drivers of support.

No action was taken after the school board heard polling results.

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