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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SERVICES, SCHOOLS BRACE FOR CUTS

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SERVICES, SCHOOLS BRACE FOR CUTS

SORTING BY PRECINCT: Betty Puckett of Cove, left, and Gayle Emmons of La Grande sort ballots by precinct before making a count of the Union County Measure 28 votes Tuesday afternoon at the Daniel Chaplin Building in La Grande.  (The Observer/CHRIS POTTER).
SORTING BY PRECINCT: Betty Puckett of Cove, left, and Gayle Emmons of La Grande sort ballots by precinct before making a count of the Union County Measure 28 votes Tuesday afternoon at the Daniel Chaplin Building in La Grande. (The Observer/CHRIS POTTER).

"This is a bad day," said David Still, executive director of the Center For Human Development. "I had to lay off nine people yesterday."

That was just one of the effects of the failure of Ballot Measure 28 on Tuesday.

Supporters of education, social services — including mental health — and public safety prepared to take budget cuts for the remaining five months of the fiscal year.

Schools were preparing to cut staff or programs and shorten the school year. Eastern Oregon University will make permanent a student surcharge it instituted earlier this month.

Union and Wallowa County voters followed the statewide trend Tuesday in turning back a temporary three-year income tax increase.

Union County voters rejected Ballot Measure 28 by a margin of 5,722 or 54.9 percent to 4,688, which is 44.8 percent. The voter turnout was 72.8 percent.

With a 76.3 percent turnout in Wallowa County, the defeat of the measure was even more decisive: 2,070 of the 4,489 registered voters said "No," while 1,357 favored passage. That is 60.4 percent against the measure.

CHD's Still said the layoffs, effective Feb. 15, affect the clinicians who work with people with mental health, alcohol and drug problems, he said.

The passage of the measure would have restored one-third of the positions, or about $11,000 monthly, Still said.

"Even if it had passed, we would have had to lay off most of them, because for us, it's the changes in the Oregon Health Plan," Still said. "We'll see the most serious folks, but we won't see everybody."

Some elderly will lose their in-home care givers as a result of the failure of the ballot measure. The cuts affect people who can manage basic care on their own, but cannot take care of their home and have trouble maintaining the tasks associated with day-to-day living.

"They have already been notified," said Libby Goben of the Department of Human Service's division serving the elderly and people with disabilities. "This affects between 40 and 50 care givers in Union County."

Also losing benefits will be younger disabled people who have filed for, but not received, Social Security disability payments and medically needy people with high prescription costs, she said.

The education cuts will be deep, too, administrators said.

Brad Royse, Enterprise school superintendent, said of the measure's failure, "It is devastating for our school district. We now have to trim another $102,000 out of the current budget. That means additional cuts, and nine days trimmed off this school year."

The failure of Measure 28 will cost the La Grande School District $400,000. Had the measure passed, the money would have been used to cover the $200,000 the school district will lose because of a shortfall in the state's December revenue forecast of at least $100 million.

The La Grande School District is faced with the prospect of making up for the loss of $200,000 during the remainder of the 2002-03 school year.

Superintendent Jay Rowell said this morning that no immediate cuts are planned. He is waiting to see if other revenue may become available. For example, the Legislature may take steps to help the school districts deal with the losses, Rowell said.

"There are too many unknowns right now,'' Rowell said. "I want to get a feel for what the Legislature will do.''

With the defeat of the measure, Eastern Oregon University students are paying higher tuition.

Undergraduates are paying an extra $12.50 per credit hour during winter and spring terms to help make up for the money EOU will lose. Graduate students are being charged an additional $50 for each credit hour.

EOU students paid the surcharge when they started winter term this month.

Students would have been reimbursed for the surcharge had Measure 28 passed.

— From Observer staff

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