In good times and in bad, Junction City School District’s budget has been a reflection of our District’s commitment to our students and their achievement. Our District’s mission is to engage, inspire, and educate our students in a challenging curriculum and in safe and healthy learning environments. Our school board’s goals are to (1) increase student achievement in core academic areas, (2) improve post-secondary options for our graduates, and (3) maintain and advance district facilities to support student and staff health, safety, and security while encouraging community involvement. In developing our district’s budget, our challenge is to see that available resources are aligned in ways that best support all three of these goals. Year after year- in those good times and those bad times- our board, budget committee, business office staff, and administrative team have worked diligently to insure that our budget is crafted to reflect those priorities.
The upcoming biennium is looking to be one of those “bad times” for public school funding in Oregon. But first, the good news. Over the past several biennia, we’ve been able to maintain continuity in our staffing levels and the opportunities we provide our students. We have even been able to make strategic investments in programs like All-Day Kindergarten, a District behavior consultant, and counseling support for our students K through 12.
Another high point is with respect to our Board’s goal regarding District facilities. The success of our $14.6M Bond Measure in May of last year- when combined with nearly $10M in additional revenue from the State’s capital matching grant, the premiums received when the bonds were sold, a recently awarded Seismic retrofit grant and energy efficiency funds- means that our District will be able to address many pressing facilities needs at all four of our schools. It is important to note that these additional funds do not have to be paid back by our District’s taxpayers. These additional funds will allow us to not only construct a two-story High School addition to replace the East Wing classrooms, but also will allow us to more immediately improve safety and security at the high school by joining that addition to the existing West Wing, thus creating a campus with just one main entrance and exit. The bond funds, and the additional funds, will also allow for improvements at all four of our schools, with the new covered play shelter at Territorial being the first project completed. We deeply appreciate the support shown by the community in passing this bond, and we are grateful to the community members serving on the District’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee for ensuring transparency and accurate community communications in the implementation of the bond program.
Now, the not-so-good news. Despite Oregon’s robust economy and a state unemployment level that is the lowest it has been in a long, long time, our state is facing a 1.6+B revenue shortfall, due in large measure to the PERS promises that were made to current retirees decades ago. Those PERS obligations will cost our District an additional $400K next year, and that obligation is expected to continue to increase for the next several biennia. The State’s revenue shortfall for the 2017-19 biennium means that like virtually every other district in Oregon, our district is facing a level of state school funding that falls well below that which would allow us to maintain our current service levels.
Public school districts in Lane County and around the state are building their budgets based on either the Co-Chairs 7.8B framework, or the Governor’s 8.0B proposed funding level; maintaining the Current Service Level would require an 8.4B funding level. While both the Legislature and the Governor have stated their “commitment” to directing more funding to K-12, we must base our budget, our staffing levels, our program offerings, and our decisions on the current reality rather than some promised, future unknown.
Junction City School District’s 2017-18 proposed budget is predicated on the Governor’s $8.0B state school funding level. Because of what we know about our increased PERS rate and other roll-up costs- and what we estimate regarding our District’s State School Fund revenue for next year- the budget document before you reflects reductions in the amount of $877K dollars compared to what a “current service” funding level would be. We also have identified further reductions- which are not reflected in the budget document- that would be triggered if, in fact, the State School Funding level is at the Co-Chairs’ framework level rather than at the Governor’s proposed budget level. Those further reductions are detailed on the “Draft Budget Reduction” list developed by the Administrative Team but are not incorporated into the budget document.
In planning for reductions, our business manager and our administrative team have worked to identify reductions that can be made in ways that have the least adverse impacts on our students. Of course, reductions of this magnitude will impact our students, our staffing levels, and the programs we offer. In a moment, each building principal and our special programs director will detail planned changes to their areas of the budget, including planned reductions in staff or programs - but first, I will share District-wide reductions.
Nearly $500K of the $877K reductions that must be made will be taken at the District level, so as to keep the reductions as far away from students as we possibly can. To that end, I am proposing that we spend down our Ending Fund Balance by $200K in the 2017-18 year; I am also proposing that we reduce planned transfers to the technology and textbook special funds by $50K each, for a total of $100K. A reassignment of administrative FTE- and small reductions in administrative FTE at 2 or 3 sites- will save another $40K. A planned 5% across-the-board cut in the “300s to 600’s”- that is supplies, materials, professional development, etc,- will save another $35K. Finally, we will need to plan to reduce 2 days from the school year- and every employee’s contract year- which will save another $120K.
Please keep in mind that several of the reductions proposed implicate issues that must be resolved through the negotiations process with our employees’ unions. Please also bear in mind that all of these reductions would need to be carried into the second year of the biennium, the 2018-19 school year. As I just described, the proposed reductions include a $200K spend-down of our District’s current Ending Fund Balance; while this budget plan would set the 2017-18 Ending Fund Balance at the board’s targeted 8% level, it would be with the expectation that the Ending Fund Balance would be spent down another $200K in the 2018-19 budget year- and at that point dip below the 8% target.
In addition to uncertainty about whether the 2017-19 State School Fund revenue will improve beyond the current estimate, there also is uncertainty regarding funding to implement Measure 98, which was overwhelming supported by Oregon’s voters in the November, 2016 election. Measure 98, if funded, will provide support for dropout prevention and college readiness programs, as well as expanded offerings in the Career and Technical Education fields. We have added a “placeholder” for possible Measure 98 funds in the the “Special Revenue Funds” area of the budget. In addition to being able to use Measure 98 funds to support continuation of our Summer Bridge Transition program for incoming 9th graders, we also would be able to use some of those funds to support a little bit of licensed FTE to support high school students who may enroll in our District’s new Online Options Program once it is launched. We anticipate, however, that should Measure 98 funding come through, the bulk of that funding will be used to add licensed FTE to develop, restore, or expand CTE programming at the high school. High school administration- both current and incoming- department chairs, and CTE area teachers have been meeting to develop a Measure 98 implementation plan, which will be shared later this month at the Board’s May meeting.
While the budget presented for your approval this evening is a “cuts” budget, it is a proposed budget that has been developed to make many of the cuts away from the classroom. In proposing this budget, we also hope to minimize the impact on our staff to the greatest extent possible- therefore, staffing reductions will be achieved through attrition and transfers, rather than layoff, wherever possible. As lean as it is, this budget represents our District’s continued commitment to educating all our students in a challenging core curriculum and ensuring that they have a full range of post-secondary options available upon graduation. The budget also allows us to maintain vital support services for students with special education, remedial, behavioral or mental health needs, to continue to extend enrichment opportunities for our highest-achieving students, to provide all our students with experiences in the arts and professional-technical areas, and to offer co-curricular activities for our children.
We are grateful to you- the budget committee and the school board- for your commitment to ensuring excellence and opportunities for all our students. I thank you for your dedication to the responsible financial stewardship of our District. And as always, I am tremendously grateful to our staff, our community, and our school board for allowing me the opportunity to serve our district.
Kathleen Rodden-Nord, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Junction City School District