(TNS) -- Medford schools Superintendent Brian Shumate is recommending a balanced 2017-18 budget with cuts to staff and investments in math curriculum and technology.
The district will need to reduce spending by about $1.1 million next year, Shumate estimated in his budget message Wednesday.
"It's substantial, but it's not going to kill us," he said.
The 2017-18 proposed budget is based on a "conservative revenue estimate" as the state school funding has not been set. For budgeting purposes, district officials used the state's lowest K-12 funding projection of $7.8 billion for the 2017-19 biennium. Based on this number, the district's general fund revenue in 2017-18 would be about $139.1 million, about $4 million or 3 percent higher than its amended 2016-17 budget.
Nonetheless, spending is projected to increase by about $5.5 million in 2017-18, including an additional $600,000 for purchased services, $900,000 for medical cost increases, $780,000 for a 1 percent cost of living adjustment for all employees except the superintendent, and $2.8 million for Public Employees Retirement System contributions. (Part of the PERS increase will be offset by money set aside in the 2016-17 budget.)
However, the district currently is negotiating with both the classified employee and teacher unions, and the COLA for both employee groups has yet to be determined.
"If we bargain an increase not included in this budget (and not offset by changes in the medical plan), it would have to come to reserves or mid-year cuts," said Chief Operations Officer Brad Earl.
At present, the district only has about $6.7 million, or 5.2 percent of its general fund, in reserves. (Board policy requires that the district have a minimum of 5 percent in reserves at all times.)
In an effort to avoid deficit spending, Shumate intends to eliminate seven positions, including two middle school instructional coaches, two North Medford High School teachers, one administrative intern, one human resources employee and one field maintenance worker, for savings of about $730,000.
The majority of those positions will be lost due to attrition, said district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd.
However, because the district reorganized its secondary staff schedules for 2017-18 so about 80 percent of teachers will be teaching six of the seven periods, "the total high school instruction will probably go up despite losing two staff because teachers will be teaching more sections," Shumate explained.
In addition to staff cuts, the district intends to reduce its contracts with College Dreams and Junior Achievement and suspend its contract with an outside teacher development group for an additional $265,000 in savings.
Shumate's proposed budget demonstrates the district's commitment to maintaining lower class sizes and includes investments in math curriculum and additional Chromebooks, bringing it closer to its goal of having a Chromebook for every student, district officials said.
The district's current math curriculum is not aligned with Common Core state standards, forcing teachers to find supplemental materials and creating inconsistency in how math is taught districtwide. (The last secondary math adoption was in 2010, and the last elementary math adoption was in 2011-12.) A committee of teachers has researched and piloted new math curriculum for the elementary and secondary levels and submitted its recommendations to the board for approval.
New math curriculum, as well as about 2,664 additional Chromebooks necessary to implement it in K-12, is expected to cost the district about $2 million.
Shumate also recommended that the district reallocate a current secondary teacher to expand its Pathway offerings, add a Hornets to Raiders Program for Latino students at Hedrick Middle School and maintain its support of disadvantaged students through expanded mental health and nursing services, district-subsidized after-school programs at six elementary schools, and improved access to Advance Placement classes, to name a few.
"If K-12 funding comes in higher than expected, we have a plan in place to increase reserves and spending next year ... in a manner that first prioritizes financial sustainability and achieving results for students while also providing improved learning and work environments," Shumate said in his budget message.
The wild card in all this, Shumate said, is Measure 98, which was approved by voters in November 2016 to provide districts with additional money for career and technical education, college and career readiness and dropout prevention. Although the district outlined a plan for this money in its budget, it will not act on it until the state has set the level of funding.
If the measure is fully funded, the district would receive an additional $800 per high school student. However, it is more likely that the district will receive only about 75 percent funding, or $600 per high school student — an additional $2.36 million overall.
"We believe this funding, if realized, could in part fund the launch of the Medford Online School, providing opportunities to help both students who are falling behind and students achieving at the highest levels," Shumate said in his budget message.
The district aims to reach its goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 but will most likely require additional community support to do so.
In his budget message, Shumate pitched the idea of a local option levy to expand services for students.
Ideally, the district would go to voters for approval of a levy in fall 2018. According to the budget message, the levy would help to increase physical education instructional minutes, lower class sizes, provide free after-school programs for disadvantaged students, expand the Pathways concept to the middle schools and build its technical offerings at the high school level.
"I want do more than put up four walls and say, 'Here you go,' " Shumate said. "I want us to be innovative and futuristic in our thinking."
Public hearings on the proposed budget will be held at the April 26 Budget Committee meeting and May 22 board meeting. The board is scheduled to adopt the approved budget at its June 12 meeting.
©2017 the Mail Tribune (Medford, Ore.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.