Districtís budget outlook improving

By Dick Mason, The Observer July 01, 2013 10:48 am

School district adopts new $3M budget for new school year 

NORTH POWDER — While the North Powder School District’s budget picture is improving, the district will enter the 2013-14 academic year with one less teacher than it ended the past school year with.

The North Powder School Board adopted a 2013-14 budget of $3.086 million late last month, one which calls for a full-time teaching position to be cut. The spending plan is about $60,000 less than the 2012-13 budget.

The budget calls for one elementary school teaching position to be eliminated. Losing the teaching position will not impact the student-to-teacher ratio at North Powder Elementary. One of the district’s two Title I teachers will be switched to a classroom teaching position. Title I teachers at North Powder provide specialized reading instruction.

On the plus side, the district will benefit from reforms the Legislature has passed for the Public Employees Retirement System. The reforms will save the school district $46,000 in PERS expenses in 2013-14. The savings will bolster the district’s budget by improving its cash balance. 

“This is very welcome. It will give us more flexibility,” North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon said.

Dixon said the school district will be better able to respond to unexpected expenses because of the lower PERS costs.

The district’s budget is down because it recently lost at least $170,000 in state revenue because of a state funding system technicality. 

The school district lost funding because enrollment at North Powder Elementary School jumped nine students to 109 this school year. The increase meant that the school district lost $170,000 in what it receives from the state’s fund to help isolated small districts, informally known as the small rural schools correction fund. This is a fund that provides small school districts that are a minimum number of miles from other public schools with additional funding. 

North Powder is farther from other school districts than most in Union and Wallowa counties. North Powder as a result receives additional money from the small rural school correction fund. 

The school district had to make immediate budget cuts in March when it learned that a portion of its small schools correction funding would be lost. The district cut 3.5 classified staff positions and a full-time teaching position. The classified staff cuts took effect in March, and the teaching position cut became effective April 18. 

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