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Save the money

Cutting school days is painful, but spending every dime is irresponsible

Well-intended as the suggestion may have been, it makes little sense for the Medford School District to dip into its emergency money to preserve school days this spring.

Cutting days from the school year remains the best option as the district tries to balance its budget.

Doing that will require that it find &

36;4 million to trim from the &

36;83 million budget in the last few months of the budget period.

Administrators have suggested getting &

36;1.5 million from belt-tightening and carryover from last year and &

36;2.5 million more by shortening the school year by 10 days. At a recent meeting, however, the board discussed instead using its &

36;950,000 emergency fund to preserve days.

If schools' situation this spring isn't an emergency, we can't imagine what would be.

That said, we don't think the board should spend the money protecting class time.

Using every bit of it would save only three to four of the 10 days the board is considering cutting. The district's payroll costs about &

36;250,000 a day.

And it would be irresponsible for the board to use every bit of the fund to reduce the number of days it must cut. As board members have pointed out, that would leave the district with nothing if faced with mechanical breakdowns or an emergency like it had in September, when part of a gym roof blew off in a storm.

Preserving even half the fund would cut the number of days saved to two, a small gain for a big risk. Auditors recommend that the district maintain at least 4 percent of its budget, or more than &

36;3 million, in the emergency fund.

Agonizing as it is ' as it has been for nearly every district in the state this winter ' Medford should go ahead and trim 10 school days from its calendar this spring.

It should save its emergency fund and turn the focus to how it will run schools next year, when Oregon's budget situation is likely to be at least as precarious as it is this time around.

Leave them alone

The moral of this story is that if you flout the law, someone eventually will come along and charge you with a crime, no matter how good-hearted your effort may be.

This statement is applicable to the Deer Lady of Copco Lake ' 52-year-old Thana Minion ' who turned herself in to jail in Yreka earlier this week. It will be her second stint in jail for illegally feeding black-tailed deer.

Nevertheless, she has vowed to continue fighting California's ban on deer-feeding, and to continue feeding the 40 to 80 deer that come to her home daily. She has named the animals in her large herd, and pets and grooms them and feeds them a mix of oats, barley and other grains.

If Minion gets credit for good behavior, she will be out of jail in 20 days.

Minion's heart is in the right place, but it's easy to see how her familiar relationship with these woodland creatures could jeopardize their lives by keeping them in close proximity to humans. The law she has broken was enacted in 1996 by the California legislature to prevent harm to wildlife by attracting disease, predators or hunters, or by over-taming them to the point that they rely on being fed.

That's the rub. The best way to protect this deer herd is by not protecting it.