For the first time in a few months, the Oregon Legislature this week had good news for the Medford School District: more money for next academic year.
The Oregon House of Representatives agreed to allocate an additional $25 million to K-12 education, and $500,000 of that will go to Medford schools.
"In a time of really challenging economic conditions, I think that it's commendable that the Legislature is working together for schools," Superintendent Phil Long said Wednesday.
However, another education-reform bill passed Tuesday will likely result in $1 million less for the Southern Oregon Education Service District, meaning Medford could lose $250,000 or $300,000 next academic year, he said.
It's unclear whether the district will see that cut or the additional funding for schools will fill the gap, Long said.
"What we will look at is the official update on the allocation from the Oregon Department of Education, which we'll share with the School Board in July or August," he said.
The board could decide to use the additional money to add days to the school calendar or hire more teachers. Adding an instructional day would cost about $340,000 and adding a new teacher about $67,000, Long said.
However, because the district is using about $1 million of its $8 million in reserves to balance the budget for next academic year, the board may instead decide to use the extra funding to put more cash back into the district's savings account, Long said. He expects the district will need to use a large amount of its savings to balance the 2012-13 budget, unless it makes even deeper cuts.
On Tuesday, the board also discussed Long's plan to not fill two open administrative positions, saving the district $280,000 next academic year. Doug Jantzi, director of secondary education and athletics, and Chet Wilson, manager of purchasing and distribution, have retired.
Under Long's proposal, he would take over Jantzi's responsibilities, while facilities manager Mark Button would handle purchasing and distribution. Neither Long nor Button would receive extra compensation for taking on the additional duties, Long said.
The board is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its July 6 meeting.
Board members said Tuesday they appreciated that Long had found a way to reduce administrative costs, but were concerned his proposal may cut too deeply.
"I have serious reservations about this structure," board member Jeff Thomas said. "There needs to be somebody in charge of secondary (schools) and athletics, so inequalities don't happen."
Long said next academic year could be a test of the new structure, and the board could consider adding more staff the following year if needed.
"Let's work the plan this year and study it to see if we actually do need these positions," he said. "I don't know if this is necessarily the solution, but it's something I think we should try."
Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-776-4459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.