(Budget Message shared at May 16th Budget Committee Meeting)
As Creswell School District prepares for the 2012-13 school year, the economic recession continues to affect public services in Oregon. K-12 education received nearly $400 million less in the current biennium than it did just a few years ago ($5.7 billion in 2011-13 compared to $6.1 billion in 2007-09). More than 15% of all school jobs have been lost in Oregon over the past three years. This year alone in Oregon, there was a 7% reduction in Teachers, a 7.4% reduction in Classified Employees, and a 7.8% reduction in Administrators. As a result, class sizes are increasing and students have access to fewer adults and resources.
The Oregon Quality Education Model (QEM) is a regularly updated bipartisan study that determines the level of funding required to ensure that 90% of Oregon’s students reach the state standards and are able to earn a New Oregon Diploma. The QEM includes recommendations on class size, technology, counselor ratios, and much more. In order to fund schools at the QEM level for the 2011-13 biennium, the legislature would need to allocate $8.75 billion for K-12 education. Currently Oregon schools are funded at nearly $5.7 billion, and that is $3.05 billion short of QEM recommendations – 30% shy of what the QEM says is required for student success.
Developing budgets during this biennium at this revenue level meant difficult choices around compensation, staffing, supplies and services, and utilization of ending fund balance dollars. It required an inclusive and thorough process for budget development. To meet this challenge, the Creswell School Board convened an ad hoc Finance Committee during the 2010-11 school year. The committee represented a cross-section of school staff and community members. The committee proved invaluable in vetting suggestions and direction. In preparation for the 2011-13 biennium, the Finance Committee recommendations included:
- Reducing staff and programs,
- Establishing programs and resources in lieu of utilizing Lane ESD services,
- Instituting utility efficiencies,
- Reducing supplies,
- Eliminating Appendix B stipends and extra-duty contracts that support after school programs,
- Reducing the contract length for staff by 8.4% (for the 2011-12 school year) which included a reduction in eleven (11) student-contact days, and
- Reviewing transportation, partnership opportunities, volunteerism, 4-day school weeks, and a local option levy.
As we prepared for the second year of the biennium (2012-13 school year), the Finance Committee recommendations were used as a starting point in conversations with budget committee members, staff members, and community members. The process began in February during a School Board work session that included all budget committee members, district staff, association leadership, and other building staff members. It continued with regular information sharing and input gathering from all buildings and departments. It included consideration of more than 125 cost saving suggestions. (See summary document at the end of this Budget Message.) It included thoughtful, time-consuming deliberation by administrators and cooperative, forthright, and collaborative conversations with our employee groups. The entire process culminated in the Proposed Budget presented here.
The 2012-13 Proposed Budget is a balance of sustaining reductions, shifting resources to improve student achievement, continued use of ending fund balance, new staffing reductions, and continued employee concessions. The Proposed Budget reduces teaching, administrative, and classified staffing levels. A change to the licensed staffing ratio will impact average class sizes, reduce the number of available classroom teachers, and reduce support for counseling services. Administratively, staff savings will come from a resignation at Creswell High School. Additionally, the district will reduce classified programming and not fill vacancies.
This Proposed Budget relies on employee concessions to maintain programs and further increases to class size. The proposal includes an assumption that employees will support a 2.1% reduction in salary resulting in a reduction of three (3) student-contact days and one (1) non-student contact day (i.e., holiday) – or a proportionate amount of non-student contact days for staff with contracts that exceed 190 days. This agreement would create a significant savings for the District. Students, however, would lose three (3) school days in this process. This makes it more difficult to provide necessary instructional time to help students meet essential skill levels now required to earn an Oregon Diploma.
Each element going into this year’s budget is designed to help the District reduce costs and maximize revenue while keeping the budget aligned with District goals and new Oregon Achievement Compacts – 100 percent of Oregonians earning a high school diploma or its equivalent, 40 percent earning a post-secondary credential, and 40 percent obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher by the year 2025.
CRESWELL SCHOOL DISTRICT GOALS for 2011-12
Goal 1: Increase student achievement for all students.
Goal 2: Increase the number of students who graduate from Creswell High School prepared and motivated for college, technical training opportunities, and employment.
Goal 3: Align Creswell School District as one educational unit.
Goal 4: Build visible pride within Creswell Public Schools and throughout the community.
Goal 5: Align the district budget with district goals and keep student achievement as top priority.
If the Budget Committee opts to suggest changes to the Proposed Budget, then I believe it is important to keep these priorities at the forefront of decision-making. It is also important to carefully reflect on the interplay of elements used to balance this budget if any changes to the Proposed Budget are to be enacted. A change in one area of this budget will have consequences on the feasibility of other portions of the document.
Sustainability is a key factor in the development of any budget, but especially a declining revenue budget. The District has faced budget sustainability issues from the onset of the recession. These have included declining state revenue, increasing personnel costs, a reliance on reducing student contact days, and utilization of ending balance funds. This Proposed Budget continues to rely on employee compensation concessions and our ending fund balance.
Employee concessions have had a significant and beneficial impact on the District’s budget for at least three years. However, they do not constitute a sustainable solution. They help address issues for a single year at a time, then previous employee agreements fall back into place. This unsustainable practice will lead to one of three future outcomes:
- Employees and the District through normal bargaining and determination processes permanently reset compensation at sustainable levels,
- Significant staffing reductions are made elsewhere in the budget to compensate for current salary and benefit costs, or
- The District realizes a proportionate and reliable increase in State School Fund revenue.
This Proposed Budget also relies on current year savings through use of the 2011-12 ending fund balance as a revenue source – approximately $500,000.
I would like to express my gratitude toward the staff of Creswell School District for continuing to make sacrifices and prepare our students for success in light of diminishing resources. I am humbled and proud to lead in Creswell.
I would also like to thank the Budget Committee for your willingness to serve the Creswell School District and its community. We look forward to your questions and guidance as we move toward approval and adoption of this budget for the 2012-13 school year.