School budget OK tonight

The public should learn more tonight about how the Medford School Board intends to deal with a multi-million-dollar shortfall in the school district’s budget for the coming year.

The board meets at 5:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at the old South Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., at a meeting at which it is set to approve the spending plan. The meeting is open to the public.

The school district’s budget committee approved an operations budget of $99.3 million last month on the same day Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered 9 percent cuts at all state agencies, including public schools.

Due to the diminished state funding, the district had a shortfall of $3.9 million in its approved budget.

District staff is expected to recommend the board approve a reduced operations budget amount of $95.4 million.

The loss in state funding automatically froze district employees’ pay per a clause in employee contracts. That saved $1.4 million off the top.

The district still hasn’t provided details on how it will make up for the $2.5 million in lost funds, and Superintendent Phil Long says it may be August before the plan becomes fully clear.

Some tentative proposals have included: reducing employee benefits by $1.3 million, shaving $30,000 in out-of-district travel, shifting $225,000 out of its dedicated funds reserved for items such as textbooks and furniture to the general fund, conserving about $100,000 in utility use, negotiating $100,000 in savings in its property and liability insurance, reworking student busing to save $75,000 and scrimping on $20,000 on school supplies.

The district also plans to withdraw an additional $718,300 from its reserve fund to help make up for the shortfall, officials said.

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