The past biennium, 2011-13, continued to be a time of inadequate State School Funding for Oregon schools. As a result, most districts in Oregon had to shorten their school year, make reductions in staff, and increase class sizes. The Junction City School District is one of the few districts in the county, if not the state, that was able to offer a full school and contract year for 2012-13 and did not have to make reductions in staff. Our district has been able to weather this long, gloomy, financial storm by careful planning and unwavering focus on our mission and goals, and thanks to the wisdom and stewardship of our budget committee, school board, and long-time business manager Wanda McClure.
In looking ahead to the 2013-15 biennium, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic. The proposed State School Funding level of $6.55B for the biennium means that our district will be able to maintain, and even slightly increase, our staffing levels. We also will be able to continue to provide our students with a full school year, a comprehensive academic program, and support for enrichment and co-and extra-curricular activities.
The financial news for the upcoming biennium is not all positive, however. Increasing PERS rates will take a significant bite out of our district revenue. Tier I/II rates will increase from 19.48% to 26.69% and OPSRP from 17.94% to 24.69%. The increased PERS rates will cost our district an additional $500,000 in the 2013-14 school year. (As I write this budget message, however, Oregon’s Legislature is considering a variety of reforms to the PERS program that may offer at least some partial relief from these increases.)
During the 2012-13 school year, there were a limited number of classified staff hours (such as instructional assistant time for supervision at Laurel, custodial and secretarial time at Territorial) and part-time licensed FTE (such as additional sections of math and Spanish for the high school, and targeted academic instructional support at Laurel and Territorial) that were added on a temporary basis to address particular staffing needs that arose after the school year began. After reviewing each of those temporary positions, we determined that it would be desirable to continue them into the 2013-14 school year, and so they have been added into the budget as “regular” rather than “temporary” additions.
In addition to rolling forward the above-noted temporary positions, our district’s State School Fund revenue will allow us to make some small but strategic increases in staffing and programs in 2013-14. A variety of data sources were considered in planning for these strategic additions, including budget survey input offered by staff, an analysis of academic assessment results which identified areas for improvement, recommendations by the district’s Achievement Compact Advisory Committee, and results of the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey. Further, some recommended General Fund additions resulted from the need to plan for reduced Federal Title I/II funding due to sequestration, and declining funding for the 21st Century Schools Program grant.
Additions to the 2013-14 General Fund budget include a .5 FTE increase in elementary ELD specialist time, the addition of a half-time counselor for Oaklea, as well as part-time licensed teaching FTE at each school (.58 at JCHS, .5 at Oaklea, .25 at Laurel and .25 at Territorial.) The Tier 1 additions to the budget also include funding for 6 Department Chair positions at the high school and 5 Technology Support extra duty positions throughout the district. Furthermore, the General Fund will support 25% of the cost of the After School Programs at Junction City High School and Oaklea Middle School.
Impending, and still undetermined, changes at Lane Education Service District (ESD) have implications for our district’s budget. Given the ESD’s move to a “transit dollars” model, we will not need to budget for a payment to the ESD for services that our “flex funds” will not cover. Additionally, after a number of years of serving as a “host site” for one of the Lane ESD’s high school Life Skills classrooms, our district will sponsor this high school special education program on our own, beginning with the 2013-14 school year. Our High School Life Skills Program will be established as a 200 Fund; tuition will be charged for out-of-district students placed in the classroom and the program will be self-supporting. Funds that formerly would have been spent at the ESD for tuition for Junction City High School students to participate in the ESD Life Skills Program will now be a revenue source for the program in the form of “transit dollars” from the ESD.
The 2013-14 budget also includes a new 450 Fund for Capital Projects. Our district’s Facilities Steering Committee has been hard at work for well over a year, engaged in the process of evaluating our district’s facilities needs, reaching out to the community to get input on priorities, and planning for possible improvements to district facilities. The board may consider putting a Facilities Improvement Bond Measure on the November 2013 ballot. Should this bond measure pass during the 2013-14 Fiscal Year, we would only be able to spend bond revenue during the 2013-14 FY if we budgeted for those expenditures. Therefore, the 2013-14 budget includes the revenue in a Capital Projects Fund that we would collect at the $2.50/thousand property tax rate: $41,686,000.
The 2013-14 budget is a reflection of our district’s commitment to the school children in our community. In developing our district’s budget for 2013-14, we have maintained an unwavering focus on our district goals and we will continue our tradition of providing students with a quality, comprehensive educational experience while offering our community the assurance that we have managed their resources carefully and wisely.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge our talented and dedicated staff; I also would like to thank our parents and patrons for their trust and support. You, the budget committee and school board, also must be acknowledged for maintaining a clear focus on meeting the needs of all our students, and for guiding and supporting our district efforts through your financial stewardship.
But most of all, I wish to recognize and express deep appreciation for the wisdom, skill, and commitment of retiring business manager Wanda McClure. Wanda’s tremendous impact on our district and our community cannot be overstated; she will leave a positive legacy of shepherding our district and our finances with a courageous heart and deep concern for the education of our children. It has been a tremendous honor to work with Wanda, and I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve the Junction City School District.
Kathleen Rodden-Nord, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Junction City School District