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Kitzhaber's vetoes shock local educators

In Jackson County, &

36;11 million must be cut before school starts

Gov. John Kitzhaber's veto of two legislative budget-balancing bills Wednesday stunned Jackson County educators who must now eliminate &

36;11 million in programs before the start of school in September.

Kitzhaber, speaking on statewide television, slammed the legislative budget package as irresponsible because it asks schools to borrow against a future state budget and also because lawmakers had 10 years to prepare for these grim economic times.

The timing could not be worse, said Eagle Point schools Superintendent Bill Jones. It's leaving schools in a very precarious situation across the state.

The governor's action sets the stage for a fourth special session, which he will call Aug. 16,in which lawmakers may argue whether to put an income tax surcharge on the November ballot.

— — — — — — Educators will urge legislators to overturn the vetoes, which would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

Jackson County administrators, reeling from two years of cutbacks, say the vetoes will lead to more staff reductions, larger class sizes, fewer support personnel, fewer administrators and shorter school years.

Rogue Community College, which would lose 10 percent of its budget ' or &

36;2.4 million ' might have to raise tuition by &

36;5 a credit in January, which is about a 10 percent increase.

The loss of &

36;367 million to education from the two bills is particularly worrisome because preventing further cuts relies on a third legislative strategy: Measure 19. Slated for the Sept. 17 ballot, it would take &

36;150 million from a state school endowment fund to balance the education budget.

If this measure fails, the combined loss in Jackson County would be some &

36;19 million, or &

36;629 a student. This amounts to 10 to 12 percent of each district's budget.

Jones said reducing the school year is one potential cutback. All school districts in the state are going to look at their calendars, he said.

Eagle Point and Central Point are the only two districts in the county that have calculated budgets based on the assumption that they would never see the money promised by the Legislature.

Eagle Point, which eliminated more than 100 full- and part-time staff members in the past two years, will dip into &

36;2 million in contingency funds. It also has saved &

36;600,000 by canceling its contract with the READ Institute, a home-schooling center.

The Medford School District will have to scramble to balance a budget that will take a &

36;5 million hit.

It's ludicrous, said Medford schools budget director Galen Anderson. We'll burn the midnight oil to see what we can do to make those kinds of reductions.

Medford school board member Peggy Penland said news of the governor's decision felt like something slammed into my stomach.

The district already cut 54 positions to save &

36;2.4 million this fiscal year.

Ashland schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, whose district recently cut 10 percent of its teaching staff, said, If I had some faith that bringing the Legislature back in would provide some solution, I would support the governor's idea.

Instead, her district, which must cut &

36;1.5 million, doesn't have the required 30 days left before school starts to warn teachers they may lose their jobs. We're going to have to ask the unions to waive the timelines, she said.

Di Chiro, who wrote the governor a letter last week urging him to sign the bills, said the district would have to explore layoffs and fewer school days to make up the cuts.

December, the district will have made another decision: We are closing a school, said Di Chiro. It's just a question of which one.

Central Point schools Superintendent Candy Manary termed the budget situation insane.

It's one of those things you worry about, but have no control over, she said.

The Central Point district made the decision to cut &

36;1.7 million out of its budget irrespective of whether the governor supported the bills.

Through a combination of resignations, retirements and layoffs, the district has reduced its teaching staff by 10 percent. We have absolutely no elementary music program, she said.

The district had no faith that the Legislature would pay schools back in the next biennial budget, she said.

Also, the district expects more cuts are likely as the state faces a &

36;1 billion shortfall in the January legislative session. We're anticipating that this isn't a one-year thing, she said.

Manary's district already has absorbed &

36;1.7 million in cuts this summer by dipping into reserves and eliminating positions.

RCC is faced with raising tuition to make up the shortfall.

I'm disappointed a little ' no, a lot ' with the governor and the Legislature, said RCC President Rick Levine.

All the talk about a strong economy during the last 10 years has produced continued reductions in education, he said.

Levine said the school also will be forced to eliminate staff and programs because of the governor's decision.

In the meantime, Levine said, We will be working with our legislators to override the vetoes.

Rogue River schools Superintendent Charles Hellman said his district has lost more than 20 percent of its teaching staff in the past six years through budget cuts and declining enrollment. Now it has to find a way to eliminate &


Phoenix-Talent Superintendent Ben Bergreen said his district made &

36;550,000 in reductions earlier this year and has begun preparations to slash another &

36;1 million.

Tim Bobo of Grants Pass works on a two-story addition to Hanby Middle School in Gold Hill, part of $30 million worth of new construction and renovations to Central Point schools approved by voters in 2000. School officials say the construction is the only bright spot in a year fraught with budget woes. Click the photo to see a larger (23k) version; use your Back button to return to the story. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell