Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Chris Collins


The Baker School District hopes to know soon whether it will have any additional money to plug into salary increases or program improvements for the coming year.

Doug Dalton, the district's chief financial officer, explained to members of the district's budget board that more school funding might be available once the governor signs Senate Bill 822.

The bill is stalled on the governor's desk because of pending tax measures theLegislature has yet to agree on, Dalton andSuperintendent Walt Wegener told the board members. The legislation to reform the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is expected to cut government expenses statewide by $800 million during the next biennium.

Additional funding also is dependant on the state's June economic forecast, which is due out Thursday.

"What I tell you tonight can change on Thursday and we may have new numbers by next week," Dalton said.

The budget board will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday prior to the school board's regular session, which will begin at 6 p.m. at the District Office, 2090 Fourth St.

The district's 2013-14 budget as proposed Tuesday night, totals $18,448,662 to maintain current programs, Dalton said. That's up from the current year's budget of $16,673,316, an increase of $1,775,346.

The projected budget includes a beginning fund balance of $155,000 and state funding totaling $2.05 million, but also the loss of $430,000 in federal stimulus money.

Changes in proposed expenditures include the loss of $150,000 in federal funding because of sequestration. The money, which Dalton said pays for one reading teacher and two reading assistants, was folded into the general fund.

Other spending changes for 2013-14 include $125,000 for step increases to district salaries based on movement on district schedules for increased educational credits gained over the year and the additional year of service for those who have not topped out on the schedule.

State funding that flows through the district to its charter school programs account for another $760,000, and the district plans to eliminate the one furlough day that was included in the current year's budget at a cost of $50,000. Hiring additional teaching staff to accommodate larger class sizes expected at the elementary level is set at $140,000 and an increase to the district's PERS bill totals $550,000, Dalton said.

In his budget message, Wegener told the budget board that the district continues to face challenges because of the cost of retirement benefits and a declining student population, which is projected at 1,640 students in the coming year, a decline of about 40 students from the current year.

"We are prepared for funding reductions or expense increases, and are developing and implementing a solid plan for cash reserves to counter the significant potential impacts," Wegener said.

The proposed budget continues the district's plan of continuing its "strong professional development plan, support for technology integrated as an instructional tool, a stable number of employee positions and no expressed furlough days," Wegener said.

He added, however, that in negotiations with staff, the district hopes to include "as-needed furlough days" that could be implemented "should conditions warrant additional employee pay reductions as state revenue unfolds during the coming year."