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Increased Medford education budget is proposed

The Medford School District has proposed a $99.3 million budget for the next school year that restores funding to nearly what it was two years ago.

The 2010-11 budget proposal would add back six work days for teachers, full stipends for athletic coaches, 21/2 secondary music teachers, four other secondary teachers and funds for campus materials and supplies.

"We are essentially being funded the way were two years ago," said Medford school Superintendent Phil Long. "Being in the position that sustains our services and doesn't dismantle them is a better situation."

Serving nearly 12,000 students, the district saw its budget shrink by $10 million this year, from $101.7 million in 2008-09 to $91.7 million, because of the economy's impact on state funding for education and other state services. The passage of tax measures 66 and 67 and the Legislature's decision to dedicate so-called "rainy day" funds to education helped to restore some of those losses.

In June, district officials slashed 10 days from the school year calendar to save about $950,000. The district managed to preserve, and at some grade levels even increase, instructional minutes by holding longer schools days.

Teachers agreed to allow the district to scale back their preparation, planning and professional development time in order to spare instructional time. Coaches took 15 to 20 percent reductions in their stipends in order to save middle school athletic programs.

"It was really the employees that helped us through (the budget cuts)," Long said.

Advanced orchestra and band classes were eliminated this year at the secondary level, but those classes would be revived under the proposed plan and more music classes would be available, Long said.

The budget also calls for an increase of one custodial position and promotions of six custodians and maintenance staff members to supervisors in order to beef up maintenance of district buildings.

"We made a promise that if the public voted to rebuild our schools (as it did in November 2006 by passing a $189 million school bond package) that we would do more to preserve them," Long said.

In the proposed budget, $49 million is for salaries, $29 million for benefits, $11 million for purchased services such as busing, $3 million for supplies and materials and $5.5 million for contingency and an unappropriated fund balance.

Benefits costs will likely become a major focus next year when Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) rates are expected to climb dramatically. If the increases hit today, they would cost the district an estimated $4 million to $5.5 million, but the stock market and the PERS board's decision about when to require districts to pay the increases will determine what the actual impact will be in the 2011-12 budget, Long said.

The Medford School Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. June 1 at South Medford High School and is scheduled to adopt the budget June 15.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.