SHERIDAN SCHOOL DISTRICT FACES SEQUESTER CUTS

Sheridan School Board’s budget for next year will look a lot like this year’s budget, with a few exceptions.

Although it is still unclear exactly how much school districts will be allotted, the district’s budget committee is working off of an expected budget of $6.54 million for next year.

The proposed 2013-2014 budget includes some cuts to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds and Title 1 funds, which are allocated to schools with high levels of poor students to help ensure that the students can meet academic standards.

These cuts, which reduce the funding by about 10% per fund, are a result of the Federal Government’s sequester. The sequester is a set of severe budget cuts put in place by Congress in order to keep government spending from surpassing the debt ceiling. The sequester was put in place when Congress was unable to agree on a way to reduce the budget deficit.

“People don’t realize that the sequester does trickle down to people in the classroom and to people’s jobs,” said Sheridan School District Superintendent A.J. Grauer.

Grauer encourages community members to contact their representatives about the issue.

The district’s 21st Century grant, which is designed to be used for academic enrichment outside of school day hours, is also running out. The grant is in its fifth and final year and as scheduled decreases by half this year.

Currently, the grant funds the district’s after school care program and School Resource Officer.

The school district shares the officer with Yamhill county, with each party paying half his salary. The officer’s presence is a top priority for parents, teachers and district staff. In order to continue to fund its half of the officer and to accommodate the reduction in funds, the district will cut one afterschool care teacher, cut the hours of three learning assistants and pull some funds from other areas of the budget.

Grauer emphasized that the fix was temporary and encourages the school board to consider ways to fund the officer beyond the 2013-2014 budget.

Next year’s budget must also make room for increased demands on the district’s contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) fund and on the number of assessments given to students.  The changes to these student evaluation systems come with no additional funding.

The changes include an updated grading system, a new state report card system, the achievement compact, new graduation requirements and new state standards for learning in core subjects.

Some of the new tests require updates to technology, Grauer said. These updates will likely either be included in the district’s bond re-financing process or be undertaken if the district receives some PERS relief.

The district is still waiting to hear how much it will be required to pay into PERS next year. In past years, the rate has been about 17 percent, but this year the district was told the rate could be as high as 30 percent. Grauer is guessing that the rate will be between 17 percent and 25 percent. How much the district is required to pay into the fund will directly relate to how many funds the district has available next year.

Even with the cuts and extra demands, Grauer is confident that next year’s budget will work out, but she is concerned about future budgets.

“I think we are on very solid ground for next year,” said she said.

The district will continue to be one of the few districts in Oregon that maintains a full school calendar and full-day kindergarten, but, Grauer warned, although the district does not want to start cutting days, the district has exhausted ways to save money.

“We didn’t want to go there, it’s a hard hole to get out of,” she said.

The district’s cut off point for keeping all its school days is having an end of the year balance of $1 million and this is the tightest the budget has been.

“This may be the year that we may have to go below $1 million,” Grauer said, of next year’s ending balance budget.