By HERB SWETT
Of the Keizertimes

“Educational funding in Oregon is very volatile.”

Sandy Husk, superintendent of the Salem-Keizer School District, said that in Tuesday night’s budget committee presentation at Claggett Creek Middle School.

It was the first in a series of public meetings on the proposed 2011-12 budget, which at a total of $609, 561,032 is about $54 million less than the current budget. The meeting, with a slide show, focused on cuts Husk and budget committee members said were necessary to maintain the quality of education in the district while complying with budgetary laws.

“Our graduation results,” Husk said at the start of her presentation, came out today and looked very good.” She said the administration and budget committee had been focusing on maintaining the progress of completion of school as the object of the cuts they were reluctantly proposing.

One of the slides was headed with the question, “How do you decide what to cut?”  Answers included the vision for the school system, the strategic plan, community listening sessions to be held this fall, staff communication, input from supervisors, and public hearings.

Cuts will be widespread. A breakdown of proposed reductions lists $7.6 million, a full-time equivalent of 69, in central services administration and support; $26.7 million, an FTE of 331-1/2, in instruction; $13.1 million to be negotiated with district staff; and $6,635 million in reserves and capital maintenance transfer.

The central services reductions consist of eliminating assistant principals at elementary schools, reducing high school assistant principals and an elementary principal, reducing central supervisors; reducing classified positions in a variety of capacities, reducing licensed staff, and eliminating and reducing funding for a variety of operations.

Instruction reductions would involve classroom teachers, counselors and instructional assistants; and eliminating some programs and reducing funds for others.

“You can compensate fewer people,” Husk said, or you can compensate the same number of people for less. We’re doing both.”

She added that it would be necessary to prepare for additional reductions, estimated at $25 million to $30 million, for 2012-13.

The budget committee will meet four or five more times; all meetings will be at Claggett Creek.  The schedule follows.

• 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, for public testimony.

• 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 5, for public testimony, deliberation and clarifying questions.

• 6-7 p.m. May 9, for public testimony, deliberation and recommendation.

• May 11 if needed, with no public testimony.