Due to the passage of a recent bill to support Oregon schools, expected cuts to the West Linn-Wilsonville School District budget that would have resulted in significant staff reductions will not come to pass.
The passage of HB 3427, known as the Student Success Bill, helped tip the scales for the Oregon Legislature, approving about $1 billion more each school year for K-12 schools than originally thought. The state funding level also increased by $1.2 million. Initially, the WL-WV School District expected to have to reduce expenses by $3.5 million for the 2019-2020 school year and aimed to do so by cutting one administrator and 18 full-time employees.
Superintendent Kathy Ludwig said she anticipates that the district will now be able to reduce those staff cuts by 50%.
During a school board meeting Monday, June 10, the WL-WV School Board adopted the general fund budget of more than $119.7 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
"That does significantly improve the outlook of going into the 19-20 budget," Ludwig said. "We also have from the state, with the $9 billion, that gives us an additional $1.2 million. Of that, we do need to be mindful, a portion of that goes toward an adjustment to our now new contract with our classified staff."
The contract includes a two-year cost of living increase of 2.5% each year and a $50 increase to the insurance cap for year one and year two for district staff who work in support positions such as secretaries, janitors and classroom aides.
Another prominent concern that was raised by the school board last month 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.
The board opted to move $4 million saved for future Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) debt into the general fund.
Looking forward to November elections
The West Linn-Wilsonville School District also approved language for the renewal of the district's local option tax, which is a $1.50 tax per $1,000 of the assessed value for general operations, for the November ballot. Unlike capital project bonds, option levy taxes are used for operation expenses, such as teachers and programming. WL-WV voters approved the last option levy in 2014. The tax currently provides enough funding for 80 full-time, non-administrative staff in the district.
Board member Betty Reynolds mentioned that Lake Oswego's local option levy dedicated a portion to mental health and social-emotional learning, and wondered if the WL-WV School District might increase the levy to dedicate more funding to mental health service or earmark the language to address mental health.
Ludwig said that with the passing of HB 3427, there is already a portion of funds being allocated to student safety and mental health.
Board member Regan Molatore added that the levy's current ballot language doesn't exclude the hiring of counselors and mental health professionals, but rather it provides discretion for how the district invests money for personnel.
Also during the school board meeting June 10, the board approved the portion of the Long Range Plan that included the seven major capital bond projects, among other facility needs. This signaled the school board's intent to go forward with a 2019 bond, which includes funds for a new primary school in Wilsonville and remodeling Athey Creek Middle School into a high school (and rebuilding Athey at a new location).
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