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La Grande Observer Daily paper 09/15/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow School district OKs new budget

School district OKs new budget

PERS reforms will provide a financial buffer

The budget news keeps getting better for the La Grande School District.

The La Grande School Board voted on Wednesday to adopt a 2013-14 general fund budget of more than $23 million, up over $213,000 from the current year’s budget. The increase reflects a projected increase in state revenue of more than $800,000 in 2013-14.  

“It looks like our budget is solid,” said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze.

The latest news is also good on the expense front for the district’s budget picture. The Legislature recently passed a Public Employment Retirement System reform bill, which will reduces cost-of-living increases retirees on PERS receive. The bill will reduce the school district’s projected increase in PERS expenses by about $300,000 in 2013-14, according to information provided at Wednesday’s meeting.

This savings will provide the school district with an important buffer, said Chris Panike, the La Grande School District’s business and plant operations director. He said the $300,000 in savings means that if enrollment should drop by 60 students in 2013-14, considered a possible worst-case scenario, the school district would not have to make any changes to keep its budget balanced.

“I feel comfortable about the position we are in,” Panike said.

Adding to his confidence are serious talks in the Legislature about providing schools with $6.65 billion in the 2013-15 biennium, $100 million more than what schools are now budgeting for.

“Usually we are sitting here wondering if the Legislature is going to cut the legs from under us. I don’t think that will happen,” Panike said.

Glaze agrees with Panike.

“We are safe,” the superintendent said.

Some of the additional money the school district will receive will be used to hire as many as three special education paraprofessionals, also known as teaching assistants. The number of paraprofessionals hired will depend on the needs of the school district. 

Glaze also hopes that some of the additional money can go toward providing cost-of-living increases to the school district’s teachers and classified staff. They have not received base salary increases for at least five years because of budget problems in the school district. 

The superintendent and his administrative staff is now preparing a prioritized add-back list to be used should the school district’s budget picture continue to improve. 

Topping the list, which is still preliminary, are additional classroom equipment and supplies. Also on the list is a resource officer, who would be a police officer based in the schools, and a curriculum director. 

Glaze urged caution, though, when it comes to adding positions.

“Adding back makes me nervous. We could add back positions one year and end up cutting them the next,” Glaze said.

He explained that the economy is still a long way from completely recovering from the 2008-09 recession. 

“We need to have a conservative approach,” he said. “I don’t feel that we are out of the weather. The current economic conditions could change. The economy has not turned around.”

 

Contact Dick Mason at 541-786-5386 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Dick on Twitter
@lgoMason.

 
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