The Philomath School District’s budget committee approved a proposed $35.6 million budget Thursday evening. The plan for revenues and expenditures features no cuts to the school district’s staff and a handle on soaring state pension plan costs.
“It’s important to know that we’re not making any cuts to staffing. We’ve actually added a little bit to enable us to continue the direction that we’ve been on,” said Bill Mancuso, the district’s director of finance and operations. “We were smart and put away a reserve for the PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) increase last year, so we weren’t as adversely effected with the increase that some other districts are experiencing, so that was very helpful.”
The committee approved the budget in a meeting that lasted less than an hour. Although that may seem like a short time to review such a complex issue, Mancuso said the committee members were well in tune with what to expect.
“We’ve had a number of work sessions over the course of the year, so there wasn’t really anything new tonight that was shocking to this committee,” Mancuso said. “This is the third time we’ve met already in the past year, so a lot of the information I talked about was just review for these folks.”
With the budget committee’s approval, the document moves forward to the school board for further public input and review. The school board needs to adopt a budget prior to June 30.
“The property taxes and the local option levy continue to be a blessing for us in getting us needed funds to continue doing some of the things that we said we would do in the request for the levy,” Mancuso said.
The committee also voted to approve the property tax rate of $4.8664 per $1,000 of assessed value and the local option rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
From a budget perspective, the school district didn’t see a decrease in full-time equivalency positions. However, investments in FTE were still seen through staffing circumstances.
“That issue was more about reshuffling the work load of the existing teachers,” Mancuso said. “From a budget standpoint, it really didn’t have much of an effect. What we did is made some changes to increase some sections so kids had more opportunities and we were able to actually increase FTE at the high school by .5 and add another FTE in the middle school.”
The middle school will be able to tackle growth, math and band needs while at the high school, year-long algebra will expand and advanced placement calculus will be retained a three trimesters — an issue that has come up at recent school board meetings.
Another addition would be a teacher/coach position for the implementation of the Response to Instruction and Intervention program for K-5 students.
“We did that through some savings from teachers who have announced their retirement,” Mancuso said. “Obviously when you bring on a new teacher, it’s going to be at a lower cost than the one that’s leaving. Budget-wise, we just utilized some of those cost savings to make the investments there to help in that regard.”
Mancuso told the committee that PERS costs increased by approximately $700,000, or 35 percent.
“Like any district, we’re going to have challenges to face down the road in terms of increased PERS costs and just expenses in general outweighing the money that we’re getting in funding,” Mancuso said.
One area of funding that educators hope to see involves a bill in the Legislature that supports $2 billion in additional school spending over each two-year budget cycle. If that does gain approval, it would impact factors such as more instructional time, student health and safety, and expanded course offerings.
“We’re hopeful that the potential $2 billion in funding will help us with reduced class sizes and adding some additional supports in the classroom,” Mancuso said. “We’ll wait and see how that develops.”
The topic of housing development came up during the meeting, specifically the two new apartment complexes.
“We’re excited about essential new construction that’s going on which may bring more students to the district, although nothing’s really reflected in this budget because it’s too early to really tell,” Mancuso said.
The five school board members along with five community members make up the budget committee. From the community, those volunteering include Craig McDaniel, Ron VanOrden, Tom Klipfel, Michelle Kutzler and Kimberly Lopez.