High Desert schools await final budget word

Leaders hope $6.55 billion isn't final figure from Salem

POSTED: 6:42 PM PDT June 27, 2013 
REDMOND, Ore -

A K-12 state budget has been approved by the Oregon Senate, but some senators and school leaders are unhappy with the decision and hope more money can be found.

Senators approved the $6.55 billion education budget Wednesday on a 22-8 vote, but some senators say the work isn't over, still hoping to get schools more money.

Just last week, the Senate voted on the same budget, but a tie vote stalled the measure. With a change this week in plans to cut some of the state's retirement fund, senators agreed on the $6.55 billion budget.

"They've got a week or so to make some good things happen," said Redmond Schools Superintendent Mike McIntosh.

McIntosh said he was disappointed when he heard the $6.55 billion budget was approved.

'I think all of us in K-12 were hoping for a number closer to $7 billion," said McIntosh.

State Sen. Rod Monroe, (D) Portland, and a chair of the state's education subcommittee, said, "I think that some members got away from the politics of it, and understood that this really is giving the resources that we know we have. This is really good budget for our schools."

But some senators still disagree.

"Though it sounds like an increase, the increasing cost of PERS, it eats up most of the increase that was in the budget," said Sen, Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

Bend-La Pine Superintendent Ron Wilkinson says the school district is down 100 teachers in recent years, and with the approved budget, only 20 of them will be able to be added back this year.

In Redmond, McIntosh said they fortunately won't have to cut any more teachers, but there will be no extra money to hire new ones.

Senators said Friday there is still wiggle room, and the budget is not final yet. Both parties have until next Monday to see if they can get the extra money from changes to the state's retirement system and additional revenue.

"I think everybody would feel like there was a victory for kids if we can get to $7 billion on K-12," Knopp said.

McIntosh said, "The community wins, the kids win, the district wins, the teachers win, when you put kids in classrooms."

The Redmond School Board was able to add 12 days back to its schedule with the approved budget. The school district had to cut 15 days this year; the other three were teacher work days.