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School district budget picture is bright
La Grande budget may be 5 percent higher in 2014-15
The La Grande School District’s 2014-15 budget picture is bright.
“The outlook is very positive. I’m forecasting that the budget we build will be 5 percent more than the one we built last year,” Chris Panike, the district’s budget and plant operations director, told the La Grande School Board Wednesday.
Panike will submit a proposed 2014-15 spending plan to the district’s budget committee on May 28. The district is in a position to add to its budget in part because of increasing enrollment and a public school budget of about $6.65 billion the Legislature approved for the 2013-15 biennium last summer. This was up substitutionally from the budget for the 2011-13 biennium.
The La Grande School District’s budget picture has also been boosted by a change in the way the state determines how districts qualify for additional money based on the number of students they have from low-income families. The change will result in the La Grande School District receiving an additional $379,000 in 2014-15.
The additional funding puts the school district in a position to add back programs after years of making cutbacks because of reductions in state funding due to the recession and declining enrollment.
“We can rebuild for years of losses,” Panike said. “This is a nice change.”
The district is now faced with the dilemma of determining what should be added back to the budget. It is a challenge La Grande Superintendent Larry Glaze welcomes.
“It is a good problem to have after years of cutting and managing decline,” Glaze said.
In the public forum portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Sam Wiseman of La Grande asked the board to consider cutting back the school district’s pay-to-play fees. Presently, the school district charges student athletes at the high school $150 for each sport they participate in. The fee is capped at $750 for families with children participating in a total of at least five sports. Wiseman said the fee is too steep in comparison to the pay-to-play fees many other school districts charge. Wiseman said he knows of families with student athletes who have transferred their children to other districts in part because of lower pay-to-play fees.
“The high participation fee was one of the factors (in their decision to transfer),” said Wiseman, a former member of the La Grande School District’s budget committee.