Oroville School Board hears about district finances

OROVILLE – Shay Shaw, the district’s business manager, briefly discussed future finances with the Oroville School Board at their Monday, March 29 meeting.

“We had the cost savings in place last year and we are grateful our levy passed,” said Shaw, “but we still do not know which plan the state will chose for school funding next year.

Shaw said Gov. Chris Gregoire’s was the worst for the district’s scenario, while she felt the house plan was better than that being offered by the senate.

“All three eliminate all of the I-728 money… we need to assume it’s gone and that’s close to $200,000 plus,” Shaw said. “This year we started to assume we would not get any, basically they gave us $15,000, but took it away from us elsewhere.”

Shaw said it looks like the state will eliminate one teaching day.

“There will only be 180 teaching days, there were 181 and the year before there were 182. It doesn’t cost us any more or less, but it does save the state money,” she said. “All year kindergarten could be gone, that’s close to $100,000. It’s a good thing we did look for this in our levy.”

In addition to eliminating the I-728 monies, Shaw says levy equalization monies may be dropped from the state budget. However, Oroville already lost their LE monies when the district’s dramatic increase in property evaluation put it above the threshold required for poorer school districts that receive the additional state funding if they pass their levies.

“We are a lot better off than other districts,” Shaw said.

Tedi Fletcher, chairwoman for the school board, said she had recently read a comparison of Oroville with other districts and agreed with Shaw.

“We have got to realize we have already lost our levy equalization. We have contractual issues… if the state is not done deciding on funding by the time we are obligated to sign we can get an extension… but it does make it more difficult to plan,” said Shaw.

“We knew this was coming all along, we knew in the second year we would be hammered,” said Dr. Ernie Bartelson, the district’s superintendent.

School Director Jerry Nelson mentioned that the state had still not decided on where they would cap the percentage amount that school districts could ask in their levies.

“It sounds like they are going up… it will just put more on the local taxpayers,” said School Director Verle Rowton.

“It just let’s the legislature say ‘we don’t have to worry about it, just let the local taxpayers deal with it,'” added Nelson.

Shaw reported that she felt that as a random estimate the board may be considering a budget built on 565 students next year. She estimated that the district will end the year with 585 FTEs (full time equivalents). The district likes to build it’s budget on between 20 and 30 fewer FTE’s than they estimate so as to not over budget (see related budget story this page).

“Pretty much every grade level had more kids. However, the seventh grade next year will only have 30 kids. That will make for some dramatic adjustments,” she said.

Supt. Bartelson said that at the meeting with the other superintendents in the county they had all said they all saw increases in enrollment and were going to hold the line on budgeting.

“We have been a little low because we budgeted for 520 and ended up with 580,” he said.

“I don’t like how far off we have been. I like that enrollment is up,” added Shaw, who said her department would have to start looking at next year’s budget soon.”

In other business, Oroville’s golf team has hit the links with far more players than they have ever had. Coach DeHaven Hill appeared before the board to request a second van. He said when the coaches were negotiating with the district last year because of cuts to the sports program, the team had agreed to go with a van instead of a bus as a cost saving measure. However, there are 24 golfers turning out for his team this year. Hill told the board he should have put “vans,” plural. He said he had lined up volunteers to drive the second van and that he would personally foot the bill for the costs.

Supt. Bartelson said the request had been put to the district’s attorney who said that if one change was made to the contract negotiated this would open up the district to other changes. The board seemed to agree and denied the additional van. It was apparent that there were still hard feelings about the negotiations between the district and the coaches’ association.

However, following the meeting and after she had some time to think about it, Chairwoman Tedi Fletcher called Supt. Bartelson and asked if there wasn’t a way to get the team a bus for away matches. After polling the board it was agreed and the team will have a bus to travel in allowing all the varsity to participate in the matches, as well as the junior varsity if they are scheduled as well.

Teacher Ed Naillon told the board he had nearly completed the district’s technology plan.

“We need to have this to get the state’s 20 percent savings for the district on telephone and internet services. It is a little bit of work, but worth it. We also need it for other grants that help out our teachers, everything revolves around this plan,” he said.

Naillon, who is in charge of the district’s technology management, summarized the district’s assets by saying the teacher’s work stations were up to date, but the library systems, computer labs and student work stations needed to be upgraded.

“We have been making do with what we had the last four years,” adding that he was grateful the voters approved money for some tech upgrades in the recent levy.

Supt. Bartelson said the district had been contacted by a representative at the Office of School Public Instruction (OSPI) and said that the Oroville’s Elementary School had been identified as one of only three schools in the state where there was improvement in test scores where the population was largely Hispanic or poor. The district will receive a $20,000 to $25,000 check from OSPI and in return agrees to mentor another school, possibly in the Tri-Cities.

“It’s a very large feather in our cap,” said Supt. Bartelson.

Kristin Sarmiento discussed her experience substituting for OHS Principal Steve Quick will he was in the Dominican Republic with several high school students on a cultural exchange program.

“I was surprised how quickly three weeks went by, although it was a lot of hard work,” said Sarmiento.