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Central Point schools brace for big cuts

CENTRAL POINT — Like other education leaders in the state, School District 6 officials hope for the best and plan for the worst.

The first of two meetings, during which public comment on the 2009-10 budget will be received, is set for 5:30 tonight in the cafeteria of Central Point Elementary School, 450 S. Fourth St.

A second meeting is slated for the same time and place May 21.

The district is preparing for budget cuts of between $3 million and $4.8 million for the district, which encompasses Central Point, Sams Valley and Gold Hill.

With state funding levels still unresolved, Superintendent Randy Gravon said the district would create budget options to deal with a range of funding.

"The bottom line is we don't have enough money," Gravon said this week. "And we're certainly not alone in that scenario."

A budget option totaling about $33.5 million will be laid out at tonight's meeting. The current year's budget is $36.2 million.

Gravon said cuts would likely come from lost school days and lost teaching positions. The district, he said, will place an emphasis "on maintaining as many services as possible."

"We have talked with all of our teachers, done staff presentations and talked with elementary parent groups," Gravon said. "The bottom line is we'll be making some difficult decisions."

If the $3 million shortfall were accomplished by reducing days alone, the district would have to eliminate "about 47 days," Gravon said.

If the cut came from teaching positions alone, the district would have to eliminate 90 teaching jobs. Gravon noted that the district has few teaching positions that could be cut through retirements.

A combination of lost days and eliminated jobs, and possibly other cuts, will be necessary, said Vicki Robinson, the district's director of business.

"We will have a piece of paper to present to the budget committee with various options," she said.

"Friday is the next forecast from the state. We're hoping it will give us a clearer indication of what the funding level will be from the state."

"We're building the budget on a best-case scenario," she said, "but we'll have plans to get down that next level."

Gravon did not address specific areas for cuts this week, saying, "I think everything is on the table.

"This is the worst thing any of us have ever seen in education," he said. "We've had ups and downs before but nothing like this. This is just going to have a dramatic impact on education."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.