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St. Helens schools prep for staff cuts

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District staff try to minimumize cuts, trim budget in other areas

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - The St. Helens School District has proposed a budget that reduces staffing levels by roughly 10 instructional positions. The cutbacks could be lessened at the middle school and high school with state money for career and technical education programs, but those numbers have not been finalized.The St. Helens School District could cut 10 instruction staff positions for next fiscal year as a budget deficit stemming from an anticipated state funding crisis looms.

In a statement from Superintendent Scot Stockwell, he said the district is attempting to balance the reductions using "creative budgeting" and by creating a sustainable community budget through actions other than freezing salaries or cutting school days.

Oregon is confronting a projected $1.6 billion deficit for the biennial budget starting July 1, resulting in a negative outlook for nearly all state-funded operations, including schools.

Business Manager Jessica Pickett said she asked staff to approach the budget in a bottom-up fashion to look for inefficiencies. As an example, she noted that individual departments could possibly cut back on the use of consumable supplies to save thousands.

At the school level, each site was asked to reduce spending by 20 percent, while the district office was asked to reduce spending by 30 percent.

Still, proposed cuts for staff at each school site are reflected in the budget. At some sites the district is taking advantage of retirees by not rehiring for those positions, Pickett added.

At St. Helens High School, staffing will be reduced by 2.76 full-time equivalent positions. Those positions have the possibility of being recovered through a career and technical education grant funding, Principal BG Aguirre stated. Eliminating certain elective programs could also be considered, but no decisions have been finalized.

Aguirre added that the school will plan to add back course offerings through state grant funding for career and technical education, or CTE, programs. A voter-approved measure passed in November allocates funding to schools based on average enroll-

ment, but the funds must be directed towards new CTE programs.

It is unclear how much funding the district will receive from the program at this time.

At the middle school, staffing will be reduced by 2.69 FTE, and students could see a change in the daily schedule. Instead of seven class periods a day, students will only have six. Several subjects could also be combined into one elective to make up some of the lost instruction.

Elementary school staffing will also see a reduction of 5.43 FTE overall. With the reopening of Columbia City School in fall, administrative positions at each building will consist of one head principal with several support staff. Pickett said she estimates class sizes will increase by an average of two

to three students across the three elementary school buildings.

The St. Helens School District Budget Committee held a public hearing last week to get input on the proposed budget. Two more budget meetings are scheduled on May 17 and May 31 at 6:30 p.m. prior to the final budget hearing June 14, also starting at 6:30 p.m.

Information about the proposed budget is on the district's website at www.sthelens.k12.or.us/Page/144.