SCHOOLS GET BUDGET BLUES

August 23, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The La Grande School District must trim $212,000 from its 2002-2003 budget.

The reason? The Legislature's failure to override Gov. John Kitzhaber's veto of a $50 million cigarette tax bond school-funding bill during the latest special

session.

La Grande Superintendent Jay Rowell believes the district can do the trimming without making staff cuts. Rowell said cuts will made in areas such as plant operations, staff development and textbook purchases.

"There is a good chance that we will not have to cut staff,'' Rowell said.

House Bill 4056 would have provided $50 million immediately to Oregon schools through the sale of bonds that would be paid off over six years with cigarette tax revenue.

The Enterprise School District will also be hit significantly by the Legislature's failure to override the veto. Superintendent Brad Royse said the district will lose $46,000 from its 2002-2003 budget. Royse believes that the loss of the money will not force the school district to make additional layoffs. Enterprise has cut 16 teaching positions over the past two years because of budget problems.

The Enterprise superintendent said that in June the district made $83,000 in cuts partially in anticipation of the possibility that the cigarette tax bond bill would be vetoed. These reductions did not involve teacher layoffs.

The Imbler School District, meanwhile, must trim at least $33,000 from its 2002-2003 budget because HB 4056 was not overridden. Superintendent Larry Glaze said the failure to override the veto could have further-reaching implications than many people realize.

Glaze said the bill had a provision that would have helped schools significantly in the event that the state's revenue falls short of projections. This would have loomed large in light of reports that the state's September revenue forecast for the 2001-2003 biennium may be $300 million short of projections.

The Joseph School District will also have to make budget reductions because of the failure to override the cigarette tax bond veto. Superintendent Rich Graham said, though, that the district can absorb the reduction without making staff cuts.

The Wallowa, Elgin, Cove, Union and North Powder school districts will also all lose money. However, they will not have to reduce their 2002-2003 budgets because these districts did not put any of the funds the cigarette tax bond bill would have provided into their 2002-2003 budgets.