The Klamath County School District Budget Committee approved the 2018-19 budget, which includes no layoffs, no hourly cuts, and adds three new teacher positions.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t cut hours, we wanted to make sure we protected programs, we wanted to make sure we didn’t cut teachers. And we wanted to continue with maintenance, we wanted to address safety,” said Superintendent Greg Thede. “We think we have done all of those things in this budget.”
The budget committee held its first meeting Thursday May 10, reviewing the roughly $100 million budget prepared by KCSD director of business services Renée Ferguson. At its second meeting on May 17, the committee approved the budget without making any significant changes from what Ferguson proposed.
The school board has until June 30 to adopt the budget. The school board’s next meeting is on June 21.
“I think this budget really meets the goals and priorities we set,” said School Board Chairman John Rademacher. “I’m very comfortable with the budget as it is.”
The 2018-19 budget maintains all programs, including elementary PE, middle and high school athletics, technology instruction, college-aligned pathways, engineering and STEM, and co-curricular programs like FFA, FBLA, DECA, drama, yearbook, robotics and music.
The budget continues the district’s commitment to safety, including continuing adding locking mechanisms and camera systems at school front doors. The budget continues the School Resource Officer program where the district funds two SROs and the Klamath County Sheriff funds a third. And a $5,000 award from PACE will pay for additional safety training for front office staff.
The district is continuing its project to replace aging modular buildings with permanent classroom structures. This school year the district is building new classrooms and bathrooms at Peterson Elementary. In the next two years it will do the same at Henley Middle School and Stearns Elementary.
The budget includes plans to replace the track at Henley High School and renovate the big gym in Chiloquin. Funds for those projects come from construction excise tax dollars, which must be spent on capital projects, not staff.
In the past three years the district replaced tracks at Mazama, Bonanza and Gilchrist.
The Henley track became a discussion topic at the second committee meeting. Board Member Bob Moore suggested using the construction excise tax dollars to replace about 1/3 of the Henley High School roof instead of replacing the track.
“I would prefer to see our roof repaired,” Moore said. “It’s something used 365 days a year, instead of seasonal.”
The roof repair would cost about $250,000, as opposed to $325,000 for the new track. Through discussion, other committee members said the roof could last at least another year, while the track may soon become unusable. The committee put it to a vote. Moore voted in favor of swapping out the track project for the roof. Six committee members opposed it and one abstained. The track remains in the 2018-19 budget, and the roof will be addressed at a future date, likely in the 2019-20 budget.
“This is not going to become a problem,” Budget Committee Chair Denise Kandra, “because we’re going to keep an eye on it. And it is first on the list.”
In the budget, the district will be replacing about half its social studies books. To replace all social studies textbooks in all grades would have amounted to $805,000. The budget cuts that in half by buying new classroom sets and lendable copies, but not a book for every student. Jeff Bullock, secondary curriculum director, said some social studies textbooks are at least 14 years old, and Mazama’s are nearing the two-decade mark.
“It’s time,” he said at the first budget committee meeting. “They’re grossly out of date.”
Other cost-saving measures included cutting district office department budgets by 10 percent. That cut did not impact school budgets.
The 2018-19 budget will not pay for student travel to national competition. KCSD students have done so well in academic and athletic competitions, it has become a cost concern for the district. For instance, this year the district paid for 100 FBLA students to go to state competition. Students are going to national competition for FBLA, DECA, HOSA (health occupations) KidWind and robotics.
“They’re just good and getting better,” Bullock said. “Our own success has created a problem we may not be able to afford any more.”
The district will still pay for competition up to the state level. But after that it will be up to the organizations and clubs to fundraise for nationals.
The budget continues to address the increasing costs of Public Employees Retirement System, known as PERS, by designating $2 million more to PERS in the 2018-19 budget.
This school year, PERS is expected to cost the district’s general fund almost $10 million. It increased almost $2 million from the 2016-17 school year to the 2017-18 school year. Based on PERS rates and the current salaries of KCSD employees, Ferguson estimated PERS costs would increase another $2 million in the 2018-19 school year to a total estimate of $12 million from the general fund.
Committee members worried about this increasingly rising cost.
“PERS is not going to work without a big infusion of money,” John Kite, budget committee member, said at the first meeting. “This budget covers us. The next budget won’t cover us without doing major damage to the district.”
“It’s something that has to be addressed,” Kandra said, “but our task now is to do this budget. We all have concerns about that, every single one of us.”
Lastly, the budget leaves less than 1 percent in its contingency fund, at about $900,000, about 1 percent of the total.
“It’s a balancing act,” Thede said. “How much do you want to cut for contingency? We need to provide programs and teachers.”
“You’re working with a tight budget,” Kite agreed. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room around here.”