For the Keizertimes

A 2012-13 budget reflecting a $200,000 drop in revenue was officially recommended by the Salem-Keizer School District budget committee Tuesday.

The budget, which totals $578,990,853, was recommended with only one negative vote. It will go before the School Board for a public hearing and final vote at a 6 p.m. meeting May 8.

It breaks down into a $343,423,734 general fund, $49,758,990 for debt servicing, $87,940,605 for capital projects, $75,234, 150 in special revenue funds (food services, asset replacements, grants, fee-supported programs and the energy conservation program, $75,234,150 in internal service funds (risk management, miscellaneous services and charter school services), a $480,000 enterprise fund (services contracted out) and a $38,300 trust fund.

The committee met Monday as well as Tuesday and took public testimony both nights. Monday, three people spoke from the audience.

Eduardo Angulo, chair of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality, commented that the most important objective of his group was keeping teachers highly motivated to achieve high academic standards.

“We have progressed but not reached that goal,” he said. Regarding the budget, he said, “We have cut to the bone.”

The two others spoke up for music programs. Alan Bushong, president of Friends of Music, noted that 10 music positions had been cut after the administration said it would cut three.

Sam Skillern, describing himself as “one crazy music booster now,” said, “We want to make sure that all kids have access to music.”

Superintendent Sandy Husk summarized the reactions of district employees to reductions as three: missing laid-off colleagues and services cut, wanting more time to interact professionally, and seeking technological improvements as they rely more on technology as a substitute for former colleagues.

Husk also said that the usual budgetary goal is to have an ending fund balance of 5 to 7 percent, but that to avoid further reductions, the district is now aiming at 3 percent.

Tuesday, Kathleen Sundell, president of the Salem-Keizer Education Association, spoke from the audience. Calling the problems revenue-related rather than expense-related, she said: “We do not want any more cuts. We want time. We support the budget message.”

Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo, a budget committee member, asked Tuesday about possibilities of restoring jobs in the next school year in case more revenue came in. Husk said that because teacher hirings affect more than one school year, more revenue could provide only short-term additions to services.

Lloyd Chapman, a committee member, noted that the 2010-11 budget included $600,000 for travel expenses and proposed that the new travel budget be reduced by $100,000 that he thought could be shifted to counseling. Ron Jones, who is on the School Board as well as the committee, said the travel budgeting increase seemed necessary because of increasing transportation expenses.

Chuck Lee, the Keizer-area board member, said that after the considerable time and effort staff had put into preparing the budget proposal, the committee should assume that it gave proper consideration to travel.

Chapman and Jeff Faville, also a board member, cast the only votes for Chapman’s proposal.

Jim Green, a board member and last year’s budget committee chair, said that cutting the ending fund balance to 3 percent was “irresponsible” but had to be done because of long-term considerations for students. Like Sundell, he said the problem was revenue, not expenses.

Chapman called Green’s comments “right on target.”

Committee member Susan Ray blamed the financial problems on Oregon’s consistent refusals to approve a sales tax.

Faville cast the lone vote against the recommendation. He explained that he wanted more items moved to the ending fund balance. Some items, he noted, were 50 percent more than corresponding amounts in the current budget.