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Vetoes affect county schools this week

If the Legislature overrides the vetoes, schools will quickly be reimbursed for the short payments

Jackson County schools will feel the fallout from the governor's vetoes when they discover their state payments on Aug. 15 have been cut by about 10 percent.

Almost &

36;2 million in expected revenues countywide will be eliminated because state officials already have calculated the fiscal impacts of the vetoes, which wiped out &

36;317 million annually for education.

The payments, issued six times a year, will be handed out a day before the Legislature is set to hold a fourth special session on Aug. 16.

Educators are pressing legislators to overturn the governor's decision to veto two budget-balancing bills: One would allow schools to borrow against future budgets; the other would provide revenue through bonds payable from cigarette tax revenues.

If the vetoes are overridden, schools will almost immediately be reimbursed for the short payments.

In the meantime, schools will get a taste of what funding would be like if the governor's vetoes stand.

Medford schools will get almost &

36;900,000 less than expected in the August payment, according to figures from the Oregon Department of Education.

Medford school board member Peggy Penland expects the district will ride out the temporary problem.

We have a little carry-over money, and I assume we would use that if we have to, she said.

Penland, who believes the Legislature will make a quick decision to overturn the vetoes, said the temporary problem shows the precariousness of school funding. It's all about cash flow when you run tight, she said.

If the vetoes stand, Medford would be looking at more than &

36;5 million in cuts during the 2002-2003 school year.

Ashland expects to lose &

36;200,000 in the August payment.

Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said the school district should be able to survive with the temporary shortfall.

As long as we get a supplemental payment by September, we should do all right, she said. Again, this is part of the whole uncertainty of the situation.

In the meantime, the district will develop contingency plans to deal with a &

36;1.5 million shortfall in 2002-2003 if the governor's vetoes stand.

One of the contingencies is the potential for more layoffs, but Di Chiro said the district doesn't have enough time to prepare for that before students return to class in September.

The 30-day notice (to teachers) precludes that we would do something before the start of school, she said.

Chuck Bennett, director of government relations at the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, said every school district in the state will get a smaller check in August.

Portland, he said, would receive &

36;3.9 million less, Salem &

36;2.9 million and Eugene &

36;1.4 million.

Gene Evans, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education, anticipated that if the vetoes are overturned, reimbursement checks to schools would be sent out within a matter of days.

Nobody's worked that one out completely yet ... this is a pretty unusual situation, he said. We'll make sure to get the funding to schools in time for school to start.

However, if the vetoes aren't overturned, the Department of Education might have to consider other options to help schools out.

Many districts, like Ashland, Eagle Point and others throughout the state, have been discussing a shorter school year.

Evans said the board of education could discuss an emergency plan to temporarily cut back on required instructional hours.

At present, schools would be penalized financially if they don't offer enough hours during the year. For instance, high school students must have a minimum of 990 hours.

Evans said the board has no plans yet to meet to discuss this issue, but if the vetoes stay, it might have no choice.

Otherwise we would issue a waiver and conduct a hearing for every district, he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail