Home News Local News LENGTH OF SCHOOL YEAR HANGS ON BALLOT
LENGTH OF SCHOOL YEAR HANGS ON BALLOT
By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
Some Union and Wallowa county school districts could be forced to reduce the length of their school year if Ballot Measure 19 is rejected by Oregon voters next month.
The measure would give the state the right to take $150 million from an education endowment fund to head off more cuts in school aid.
Failure of Measure 19 would cost the Enterprise School District $142,000, said Superintendent Brad Royse.
Royse believes the loss of funds would force his financially strapped district to cut the number of days in the school year. Royse said his district has no other budget cutting options left.
"We have already gutted our system,'' said Royse, noting that the school district has cut 16 teaching positions in the past two years.
The La Grande School District may also be forced to consider cutting back its school year if Ballot Measure 19 is rejected.
"It is one of the options we will have to consider,'' said Superintendent Jay Rowell.
The defeat of the measure would cost the La Grande district $641,000. A reduction of this magnitude would mean that program and staff cuts would be likely, Rowell said.
The Imbler School District will lose $100,000 if the measure is rejected. Imbler Superintendent Larry Glaze said his district will have to consider making additional personnel cuts, reducing the school year or both if the measure fails. The Imbler School District already had to cut 3.5 teaching and staff positions this spring.
Ballot Measure 19 is one of two issues voters will decide in the mail-in election. Voters will also decide on a proposed cigarette tax increase in the special election. Ballots must be returned by Sept. 17.
The importance of Ballot Measure 19 for schools has increased in recent weeks because of the state's newest projected revenue shortfall. It has been estimated that the state's revenue forecast for the 2001-03 biennium may be $482 million short of earlier projections.
If the Legislature handles the shortfall by making across-the-board cuts, Oregon's schools would be hit hard. The Union School District, for example, would lose about $135,000.
Superintendent Mike Wood said that passage of Ballot Measure 19 would offset this loss, preventing the school district from having to make additional cuts.
Wood said the Union district can ill afford to trim $135,000 from its budget because of the cuts it had to make last spring. The district made more than $350,000 in reductions. Two teaching positions and a custodial position were cut.
The Cove, Elgin, North Powder, Wallowa and Joseph school districts would also be affected by the failure of Measure 19. However, the superintendents in these school districts believe the measure's failure alone would not force them to make personnel cuts for 2002-03.
Wallowa Superintendent Ed Jensen said a spending freeze probably would have to be put in place in his district if the measure goes down. The school district will lose $98,000 if it is rejected.