SLSD waits for budget, could face $1.8 million hole

The South Lane School district is holding its breath along with the rest of Oregon's education system as it awaits the final decision by state legislators concerning the budget. While the final number has yet to be revealed, early projections from both the governor's office and the ways and means committee had schools scrambling to maintain current services. The best estimate places South Lane schools trying to bridge a $1 to $1.8 million gap. To do that, something has to go. 

South Lane Superintendent Krista Parent has been holding budget meetings with various educators around the district to illustrate the dire situation. 

According to information distributed during those meetings, the school district has several options in making up the budgetary shortfall. To close the $1.8 million gap, it could eliminate 25 teachers for a value of $70,000 each. It could also cut 20.5 days from school at $88,000 a piece. However, Parent has noted that a portion of South Lane's students have had just a fraction of their education consist of a full calender due to cut days to comply with budget restrictions. Further, inclement weather has left students at home more than usual this year which could potential cause a larger problem.

Students are required to attend school for a certain number of instructional hours per year. When school days fall away to snow days and budget cuts, schools can be left responsible to the state to explain the short-coming. According to Parent, SLSD has yet to be in the "penalty box" concerning instructional hours but if the school is forced to cut days due to the budget and the area experiences another harsh winter, that could change. 

Also on the list of possible money-saving options is sports at the high school level. Eliminating the program would save the school $200,000. However, it is noted that such a move could cost the district up to 100 students. In a state where students can choose where they go to school, athletic programs draw in potential players and losing 100 students would amount to a $750,000 loss for the district. 

Other suggestions on the list include closing Latham School which would displace 120 students, stalling already delayed math adoption at the elementary level, terminating 31 custodians, 39 secretaries, 21 administrators or cutting all middle school athletics. 

Of all the items on the list, Parent asks administrators to cut up to 12, ranking them one through 12. She reported back to the school board that the exercise is helpful in explaining the budget to teachers and administrators who feel the pinch when services decrease and they're asked to do more with less. 

It's not the first time South Lane School District has been asked to tighten their budget by the legislature. The district has cut days in the past and according to Parent, may have to do so in the future. Because the legislature lays out a two-year budget, further cuts could be waiting for the 2017-2018 school year. Parent noted that the district is unaware of exactly how the legislative budget would affect next year but any budget shortfall would place services, teachers and school days back on the chopping block. 

An answer on the final budget is due from the legislature in the coming weeks. 

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