More cuts likely for district next school year

Ashland School District likely won't need to make more cuts this academic year, but Superintendent Juli Di Chiro has asked the budget committee to be prepared to hack more than $1 million from next year's budget if state funding remains flat, as some analysts are predicting.

"The forecast is not positive for the next biennium," she said. "Looking forward, the next two years are going to be very challenging for the school district."

Di Chiro told the committee and School Board on Nov. 29 that preliminary numbers indicate the district will need to cut between $1 million and $1.2 million from the 2011-12 budget.

"That's the target I gave the budget committee," she said.

District officials hope to find ways to cut the budget without eliminating staff or teaching positions, Di Chiro said.

"Our hope and goal is to find ways to reduce the budget without reducing any current staffing," she said. "We made those pretty extreme cuts two years ago and it would be difficult for me to identify any positions we could eliminate at this point."

The district plans to hold three community meetings early next year to address potential cuts to elementary, middle and high school programs.

In the spring, the budget committee will begin to craft the budget for the following academic year.

The state's revenue forecast issued last month was good news for the district in the short-term, Di Chiro said.

"The initial forecast for the rest of this year is positive news for the district — it means we'll be able to have a complete school year without cutting any days and we'll be able to implement our budget for the rest of this year without any cuts," she said.

The district likely won't need to use its $1 million in savings this academic year, but it will go toward filling next year's projected budget gap. Di Chiro said her calculations about the district's potential shortfall take the $1 million in savings into account — so without the savings, the shortfall would be about $2 million.

If the state's funding for education remains flat next academic year, the district will need to enact budget cuts because of rising costs, Di Chiro said.

"Our concern is it's looking like the most optimistic scenario for next year is flat funding for schools, and that's problematic for a number of reasons," she said.

The district's Public Employees Retirement System costs are expected to increase $650,000 in the 2011-12 school year, Di Chiro said. The district's enrollment is also projected to continue to decline, meaning less money from the state, she said.

The district cut $1.1 million from its general fund budget for this academic year because of a state funding shortfall. The previous year, the district cut 15 percent of its general fund budget, bringing it to $22 million, and laid off dozens of teachers, as administrators grappled with declining state funds for education due to the recession.

Di Chiro said school districts statewide have been forced to make similar cuts.

"It's obviously very challenging for all school districts in the state of Oregon right now," she said. "There's a combination of a lack of revenue and a lack of certainty about the economy."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456, ext. 226, or

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