District budget passes first test

By Dick Mason, The Observer June 07, 2013 10:22 am

Budget committee approves spending plan for La Grande School District 

The La Grande School District’s proposed 2013-14 budget received a thumbs-up from its budget committee Wednesday night.

The budget committee voted unanimously to recommend that the school board adopt the district’s proposed 2013-14 general fund budget of $23.841 million, up $213,154 over the present year’s budget. The increase reflects a projected increase in state revenue of more than $800,000 in 2013-14. 

The La Grande School Board will vote to adopt the budget at its June 19

“The budget process has gone very smoothly this year,” said La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze.

Glaze is proposing that the school district use some of the additional money to hire up to three special education paraprofessionals, also known as teaching assistants. The number of paraprofessionals hired would depend on the needs of the 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 La Grande School District is expected to receive a boost in state funding in 2013-14 because the Legislature is close to approving a measure that would provide $6.55 billion to schools in the 2013-15 biennium. This funding total would result in almost all school districts receiving a boost in state revenue.

Glaze said the state’s school districts would receive 49 percent of the $6.55 billion in 2013-14 and the remaining 51 percent in 2014-15. This means the budget picture also looks promising for the La Grande School District in 2014-15. 

Budget committee members asked about the district’s plans for adding back programs and positions lost to recent cuts if the school district’s budget picture continues to improve. A number of budget committee members, including chair Dwight Dill and Joel Goldstein, said they would like to see funding for the district’s Talented and Gifted program boosted. TAG is among the programs that has been cut back significantly because of budget problems.

Glaze said that a prioritized add-back list will soon be established by the district’s administrative council. 

“We are in a unique position after making deep cuts,” Glaze said. “This is a very good feeling for us.”

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen, a member of the budget committee, commended Glaze for the work he has done over the last five years as superintendent during a difficult financial stretch. 

“I think Larry has done a fine job during turbulent times,” Rasmussen said. “It is hard to predict revenue from year to year.”

Glaze said that the school district’s financial situation has been aided by the able leadership of Chris Panike, the school district’s director of business and plant operations. 

“Chris is a top notch business manager. He dots the ‘I’s’ and crosses the ‘T’s.’ He is very meticulous,” Glaze said.

The superintendent also credits Panike with making outstanding revenue forecasts.

The June 19 meeting at which the board will vote on adoption of the budget will begin at 7 p.m. at Willow Elementary School. A budget hearing will be conducted at the start of the meeting.


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