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West Linn-Wilsonville district projects $7.5 million in lost revenue for upcoming fiscal year

PMG FILE PHOTO - The West Linn-Wilsonville School District released its proposed budget, which includes reductions in staffing and staff hours.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District is planning to make major cuts to account for revenue reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a proposed budget.

Due to projected losses of $2.7 billion in state revenue and $490 million to the State School Fund, the district expects to lose out on $7.5 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

In response, the district plans to cut staffing by 16 full-time employees, 54 staff hours and suspend its preschool program (which enrolled 146 students according to a recent count) for one year. The district also plans to suspend its teacher-mentor program (used to support new teachers), reduce school budgets by 20% (not staffing, mainly material costs), suspend curriculum renewal plans and reduce professional development. These cost-cutting measures cover the lost revenue, according to the budget proposal.

The district's budget committee will meet June 22 and, if necessary, June 24 to sift through the budget. It is slated for adoption June 29 or June 30.

Andrew Kilstrom, the district's director of communications, said the district would identify exactly how staffing levels and hours would be reduced following the budget process.

The district also plans to use $4 million from the Student Success Act, passed by the Oregon State Legislature in 2019 to bolster school funding statewide, to fund current positions. However, it estimated that grant funding through this act will be reduced by about 37% for the fiscal year. It also reported a 35% reduction in Measure 98 grants, which fund programs to reduce dropout rates and absenteeism.

The district is hopeful that the Legislature will use rainy day funds to provide more relief, which could result in bringing back more positions.

"This budget message is presented with the sobering recognition that we will be making significant reductions to our personnel, programs and professional development program next year. Reducing by $7.5 million dollars, while also growing as a district, will be a noticed impact. And yet, I hold a spirit of optimism that our community, our state and our elected representatives will continue to seek out ways to support public education funding in Oregon," Superintendent Kathy Ludwig wrote.

The school district budget also noted that it will pay $3.5 million in Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) obligations for the upcoming fiscal year.

"This is not a one-time cost increase for one biennium. Funding PERS obligations will affect all public agencies (state government, public schools, cities, counties and special districts) for at least the next ten years," the budget reads.

Even despite the lost revenue and budget cuts, according to the budget proposal, the district plans to spend over $127 million in general fund revenue in 2020-21 compared to $120 million in 2019-20. The district identified payroll cost increases and PERS costs as a reason for the overall increase.

"The West Linn-Wilsonville School District 2020-2021 budget proposal is based on a $9.0 billion State School Fund biennium. While $9.0 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. And it is well below what is needed to adjust for increases to PERS (Public Employee Retirement System)," Ludwig wrote.

Not to mention, the district also plans to spend $170 million on construction projects next fiscal year compared to $9.5 million this fiscal year. This large increase is a result of the bond voters approved last year to fund projects like building a new middle school on Dollar Street in West Linn and retrofitting the current Athey Creek Middle School into a third option high school.

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