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If revenue increases, district's priority is to restore positions expected to be cut

During the May 13 West Linn-Wilsonville Budget Committee meeting, the panel voted to approve Superintendent Kathy Ludwig's proposed general fund budget of more than $119.7 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

But it wasn't an easy vote. Forty percent of the budget committee and school board voted no because they wanted more time to factor in a potential increase in revenue from the state and further discuss where the additional funds would be allocated.

"I think there are so many variables that have emerged since the proposed budget was developed," said board member Betty Reynolds, advising the budget committee to hold another meeting prior to bringing the budget to the board for adoption next month.

Just days following the budget committee meeting, the state funding level increased from $8.87 billion to about $9 billion to support K-12 school districts from 2019-21.

This small increase translates to about $750,000 of immediate revenue for the general fund.

"That will positively impact the budget, but I don't have more specifics than that at the moment," said WL-WV Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom. "Our business office is working closely with our superintendent's office to determine all the implications of this change and what it means for the 2019-20 budget." 

Prior to the meeting, the school district also found out the Senate passed House Bill 3427, known as the Student Success Act. The bill proposes a change to Oregon's corporate tax code that would generate an estimated $1 billion extra each school year to help fund public education.

HB 3427 was signed by Gov. Kate Brown May 16.

Though funds would not be immediate and would need to eventually be approved by voters, HB 3427 would bring in additional revenue.

Fifty percent of the funds will go toward student investment, which includes class size reduction, counseling and student support programs, broadening curriculum options and students' physical and social-emotional health and safety.

Twenty percent of the Student Success Act funds will go toward early learning programs and 30% toward programs that help schools raise performance. This includes fully funding Measure 98 with an additional $133 million for dropout prevention, career and technical education and dual-enrollment options, universal free meals through school breakfast and lunch programs, and pilot programs to re-engage students who have left high school.

During the May 13 meeting, budget committee members and school board members questioned what areas the additional revenue would help restore.

Ludwig said the priority would be to restore the 18 full-time employees that are currently expected to be cut, though she said to keep in mind that natural reductions happen when employees retire, resign or when temporary staff do not return.

"This is the season when people are making some plans or things happen with families and they're letting us know," Ludwig said. "There's this holding pattern. We still have a month of school and we've got some time to make those adjustments and to do that in a way where it's not such a big hit in one school or one area."

Reynolds asked what specific positions would be cut where FTE is reduced. Ludwig said the district is trying to not go through a reduction-enforced process and she hopes the retirements and resignations would cover the 18 FTE positions and doesn't want to alarm teachers with rumors or speculation.

Another prominent concern raised during the meeting was whether or not the school district has enough money in its ending fund balance — funds that will roll over into the following year and help navigate shortfalls.

Board Vice Chair Dylan Hydes said if there is additional money after cuts are restored, he would like to see it added into the ending fund balance, which currently is about $6 million or approximately 4% of the budget. Hydes wants to see the ending fund balance increased to about 8% — 5-8% is recommended by the Oregon School Boards Association.

Budget committee member Kirsten Wyatt said she supports moving toward a more robust ending fund balance but said it's inappropriate to talk about saving money right now.

"I feel like what I would be most comfortable with is recognizing we have done a great job over the years building up our ending fund balance and then, potentially, if the board could pursue longer-term strategies or at least communications outreach, explaining and storytelling about why ending fund balance matters because it feels like it's a hard time right now to talk about cuts and then to talk about ending fund balance and increasing that," Wyatt said.

There was back and forth about whether or not to save now, which would better benefit future students or spend now, which would better benefit current students. But Hydes said with the knowledge that PERS is only going to get more expensive, he thinks the district needs to be saving more money now.

No decisions were made about the ending fund balance.

The approved budget will be presented to the school board June 10 for adoption.

Reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-479-2384.

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