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Op-Ed from Mike Scott, Superintendent, Hillsboro School District
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Parents and community members asked to write their elected officials and urge a K-12 budget of $7.5 billion to avoid a $4.5 million loss to Hillsboro School District in 2015-16
March 13, 2015 – Oregon’s Legislators are about six weeks into their full 2015 session, and one of the biggest tasks before them is to pass a budget for the 2015-17 biennium. Those of us in the education field are hearing there is a desire to pass the education budget early, so that other matters can receive attention.
We are very appreciative of some early certainty around the budget, as it makes our planning process a little easier; however, the proposal currently on the table from the Co-Chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee is a K-12 budget of $7.235 billion.
When one looks at the anticipated state revenues for the 2015-17 biennium, there is an increase of nearly 9.5% to the total General Fund/Lottery Fund budget. If K-12 education received that same increase, plus an allowance for full-day kindergarten, it would equate to an allocation of approximately $7.5 billion.
A K-12 allocation of $7.5 billion is widely acknowledged as being what school districts across the state need to stay “flat” for the next two years. That doesn’t mean reducing class sizes, adding money back to programs, or expanding the number of support staff—it means simply being able to maintain what they are doing this year for the next two years, while adding full-day kindergarten.
Oregon is often criticized for having one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation. However, that should not come as a surprise to us when we are funding our public schools at one of the lowest levels in the nation. Our outcomes, as a whole, are matching our investments.
New investments in early childhood education and post-secondary education are exciting and much-needed, but we cannot ignore the years of education we are legally required to provide, and the ones we as a country have agreed are most important to the perpetuation of our democracy—K-12.
Oregon has disinvested in K-12 education over the past several years—just ten years ago dedicating more than 44% of its General Fund/Lottery Fund to K-12, and now just over 39%.
While it may not be realistic to expect a return to former spending levels for K-12, with a variety of needs in our state ranging from health care to social services to public safety, we must ask ourselves what the impact will be to our children of continuing to ask more from them while providing them with less.
If we believe in the importance of education as a way to not only prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders, but also to strengthen our economy, reduce reliance on social services, and to improve communities, we simply must find a way to prioritize our investment in education.
Hillsboro School District takes pride in the fact that we have managed our finances in a responsible manner over the course of the last several years, thanks to our forward-thinking Board, skilled Business Office staff, and much-appreciated cooperation and partnership with our employee groups. Though we had to effectively reduce our budget by nearly $70 million between 2009 and 2014, we tried to do so in a way that was sensitive to the needs of our students and maintained the integrity of our programs to the extent possible.
That we were able to avoid a true crisis is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is the avoidance of a crisis. The bad thing is we may have a more difficult time getting the message across that we need to do more for our students. We know what it will take to raise achievement for all students. We have been achieving success with our sustained efforts in the areas of standards-based teaching and learning, our Bilingual Program Model, and staff professional development. We have devised a five-step plan for reinvesting in our system and reaching our goal of having all students graduate ready for success in the next phase of their lives. But we first need to stabilize our funding.
I would ask that each of you take just a few minutes of your time to write to your local elected officials and urge them to support a K-12 budget allocation of $7.5 billion for the 2015-17 biennium. If they pass the $7.235 billion budget, Hillsboro School District will experience a $4.5 million shortfall in the 2015-16 school year, which would equate to cutting 9 school days or 55 teachers.
We have created a template advocacy letter for your reference, as well as a list of our local elected officials. Both are available on our Budget Matters webpage. Please add your personal information to the template letter or write your own and send it to everyone who represents you right away. There are similar efforts taking place in school districts all around the state.
Together, we can make a difference.
March 6, 2015
Hillsboro School District patrons asked to share their priorities as the District plans the implementation of its five-step reinvestment strategy
As was shared in mid-February, Hillsboro School District has created a five-step reinvestment plan to act as a roadmap for future spending and to get the District to a place where our spending will match our expected outcomes for student achievement.
Knowing that we may not receive all the funds necessary to carry out full steps of the plan, however, we are seeking input from staff, parents, and other patrons on their investment priorities. A survey has been created to identify and capture your thoughts. Please take a few moments to complete the survey and share your priorities with us! Thank you!
After completing the survey, please consider writing to your elected officials and urging them to support a K-12 budget of at least $7.5 billion for the 2015-17 biennium. The current recommendation before the Legislature is $7.235 billion, and spending at that level would mean a $4.5 million shortfall for Hillsboro School District. This is the equivalent of 9 school days or 55 teachers. Click the links for a list of our local elected officials and their contact information, and a template advocacy letter (PDF version).
February 18, 2015
Hillsboro would require a statewide K-12 allocation of $7.5 billion to maintain current service level
Hillsboro School District has been working on its budget projections for the 2015-17 biennium and beyond for quite some time. And while all projections are updated on an ongoing basis, the immediately upcoming biennium is always the most important.
Forecasting is done by estimating “roll-up” costs from the current year and making assumptions about the amount of revenue that will be available to meet those costs. Simply rolling forward costs from one year to the next, and taking into account expected increases to the cost of doing business, results in what is known as a “current service level” (CSL) budget.
Last fall, the District estimated that it would need a statewide allocation of at least $7.385 billion for the 2015-17 biennium to maintain CSL. However, when the Oregon Department of Education delivered its preliminary State School Fund estimate for the 2015-16 year, which considers “carve-outs” (targeted spending) identified in the Governor’s and Co-Chairs’ budget proposals (released December 1, 2014, and January 14, 2015, respectively), as well as student population calculations for the next biennium, it was determined that a statewide allocation of at least $7.5 billion would be needed to maintain CSL.
Because education funding is so volatile in Oregon, the District wanted to create a comprehensive five-step reinvestment plan to act as a roadmap for future spending. That way, despite changes in revenue, there would always be a clear vision of where the District needs to go to effect consistent, high achievement levels for all students.
The plan was initially shared with the Board and Budget Committee at their work session on Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Additional materials to help explain the District’s budget situation and the reinvestment plan were subsequently created, and are now available on the District’s website on the Budget Matters page.
This information will be shared with staff and community members throughout the spring. In addition, a document is being created to help capture patrons’ input on what the immediate spending priorities should be, so the District can begin progressing toward the first step in the reinvestment plan.
Click the links below for additional information:
Budget Planning and Advocacy One Pager
Five Step Reinvestment Plan
Five Step Reinvestment Plan High Level Overview
Five Step Reinvestment Plan Ideal Elementary
Five Step Reinvestment Plan Ideal Middle
Five Step Reinvestment Plan Ideal High
2015 Legislative Priorities Brochure
2015 Legislative Contact List
January 28, 2015
The District has an unfunded actuarial liability (UAL) with the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), totaling $39.86 million, as of December 31, 2013.
In 2005, the District issued pension bonds to pay off the PERS UAL at that time. The proceeds from the bonds were placed in a side account at PERS to offset future rate increases. Through 2013, these pension bonds have saved the District nearly $23 million.
The District now has an opportunity to refinance what remains of the UAL in hopes of saving additional money in the future. At their meeting on Tuesday, January 27, the Board approved the refinancing by a vote of 6-1. The District's projected savings from the issuance of pension obligation bonds is approximately $10.4 million over the life of the bonds.
January 16, 2015
Governor’s and Co-Chairs’ K-12 allocations would mean a shortfall in HSD
In Oregon, the statewide budget is determined in odd-numbered years for a two-year span of time (biennium). That means elected officials will be discussing and passing a budget for the 2015-17 biennium in the session that begins on February 2, 2015.
Governor Kitzhaber released his budget proposal on December 1, 2014. In it, he called for a K-12 allocation of 6.914 billion, which included $220 million for full-day kindergarten. Then on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, the Co-Chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee released their budget framework, which identified $7.235 billion for K-12 education, including full-day kindergarten.
Hillsboro School District built its budget projection for the biennium assuming an allocation of $7.385 billion. At this level, the District would be able to maintain current service level and offer full-day kindergarten at all 25 of our elementary schools. If the Co-Chairs’ budget were to be passed, HSD would experience a $2.4 million shortfall in 2015-16 and a $3.9 million shortfall in 2016-17.
Our Board of Directors will be voting on the adoption of a set of legislative priorities for the 2015 session at their January 27 meeting. The top priority in the draft document is stable and adequate funding for K-12 education. Stay tuned to Hot News and our website for updates on the budget process, both at the state and district level.
At their meeting on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, the Hillsboro School Board unanimously* adopted the 2014-15 budget, which adds $6.2 million for hiring teachers, providing additional classified support, and adding one instructional day back to the calendar, among several other things. (*Director Cañas was not present at the meeting; the vote was 6 yes, 0 no to adopt the budget as presented.)
In the same motion, they set the Permanent Tax Rate (property taxes for education) to support the General Fund, and set the Debt Service Levy amount (additional taxes to pay off previously approved bonds) to support the Debt Service Fund.
Notable is the Debt Service Levy, which is higher than initially proposed due to an opportunity to refinance a portion of the District’s outstanding bond debt at a significant long-term savings to taxpayers. When taxpayers approved the District’s last bond in 2006 for the construction of new schools, those bonds were sold in two series: Series 2006A and Series 2006B. The Series 2006B bonds are structured as “callable deferred interest bonds,” so they may be prepaid prior to their maturity dates, which are currently in 2025 and 2026. Refinancing those bonds now will save taxpayers approximately 34% or $6.5 million in net present value (NPV), and can be accomplished while keeping the total bond levy rate stable for the next four years.
“It is very exciting and rewarding to adopt a budget that begins to restore funds to our system,” notes Board Chair Kim Strelchun. “Having the opportunity to refinance outstanding bond debt to save taxpayers money is another bonus—it shows the District’s fiscal responsibility and provides predictability to our community over the next four years.”
(Click here to see more information about the bond refinancing.)
At their meeting on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, the Hillsboro School Board unanimously approved a revision to the previously adopted 2014-15 school calendar to restore Friday, March 20, 2015, as an instructional day.
When the District was budgeting for the 2013-14 school year and looking at forecasts for the biennium, it was considering negotiating with the licensed employee union to achieve five furlough days in each of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years to make up for anticipated budget shortfalls. However, Gain Share money received from the City of Hillsboro and Washington County allowed the District and union to agree to just two furlough days each year.
Over the course of the winter and spring of this year, the cumulative effect on the District’s 2014-15 revenue—as a result of last fall’s Legislative Grand Bargain, a revision to the poverty calculation for schools, and updates to the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 State School Fund estimates—became clearer. By mid-April, calculations indicated the District would have revenues that were $6.2 million in excess of expenditures.
On Thursday, May 8, the Hillsboro School District Budget Committee, composed of the Hillsboro School Board and an equal number of appointed citizens, unanimously approved the 2014-15 proposed budget, which included allowing the District to add back one of the two furlough days to the calendar, hire teachers, and provide additional classified support, among several other things.* That night, they also set the Permanent Tax Rate (property taxes for education) to support the General Fund, and set the Debt Service Levy amount (additional taxes to pay off previously approved bonds) to support the Debt Service Fund.
The following week, the District was contacted by its underwriter about an opportunity to refinance a portion of the District’s outstanding bond debt at a significant savings to taxpayers. When taxpayers approved the District’s last bond in 2006 for the construction of new schools, those bonds were sold in two series: Series 2006A and Series 2006B. The Series 2006B bonds are structured as “callable deferred interest bonds,” so they may be prepaid prior to their maturity dates, which are currently in 2025 and 2026. Refinancing those bonds now will save taxpayers approximately 34% or $6.5 million in net present value, and can be accomplished while keeping the total bond levy rate stable for the next four years.
To satisfy procedural guidelines around actions of the Budget Committee and public notification in advance of the Budget Hearing, the District will reconvene the Budget Committee on Tuesday, June 10, to discuss the refinancing option and corresponding new Debt Service Levy amount, and then will announce that the Budget Hearing will take place on Tuesday, June 24.
At their first meeting of the 2013-14 school year on Tuesday, July 23, the Board voted unanimously to ratify the tentative agreement with licensed staff and add three of the proposed five budget reduction days back to the school calendar.
The District has been negotiating with the teachers’ union, Hillsboro Education Association (HEA), since December 2012 for a successor collective bargaining agreement to the one that expired on July 1, 2013. On July 15, 2013, the District bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with HEA for a new three-year contract. The main points of the tentative agreement are as follows:
There were also several changes to the language of the contract, including the District’s ability to transition to electronic personnel files and the addition of four hours for elementary fall conferences. For more information on the language changes, please see pages 61 and 62 of the Board Packet.
The initial budget proposal for 2013-14 included five budget reduction days to help address the District’s revenue shortfall. On June 6, Washington County Board of Commissioners Chair Andy Duyck and Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey held a joint press release at which they indicated their willingness to devote $10 million of their Gain Share* money for the next biennium to Washington County Schools. Hillsboro’s portion of that allocation will be approximately $1.2 million in 2013-14.
Gain Share money, in addition to a portion of the savings from licensed staff retirements, was used to add three of the five proposed budget reduction days back to the calendar. The remaining savings from licensed staff retirements, along with delayed step movement in 2014-15, was used to pay for the creation of a new step on the salary schedule and add to the insurance cap. Therefore, all changes were affected within the previously-budgeted amount for licensed staff in 2013-14 and 2014-15—a great result.
The District is extremely grateful to the City and County for their willingness to devote Gain Share money to schools. Maximizing our students’ instructional time is of the utmost importance. Students will now be in school 173.5 days in 2013-14 (172 for elementary students). Oregon’s guideline for number of school days is 175, which is approximately 4 days short of the national average of 179. Thanks are also in order for all members of both the District’s and HEA’s bargaining teams for the hard work, dedication, and spirit of collaboration with which they approached negotiations.
*Gain Share is money that local taxing authorities receive back from the state as a result of tax abatement agreements with large employers. In Hillsboro, both Intel and Genentech have entered into Strategic Investment Program (SIP) agreements with the City and County, allowing them to pay less money in taxes in exchange for their significant investments in their physical plants. The income tax collected from employees who are new to those companies as a result of the investment is held separately by the state—half is kept at the state level, and half is returned to the local taxing authorities. For more details, please see the information sheet on Washington County’s website.
Use of $2M in discretionary reserves will save teaching positions
At its meeting on Thursday, May 9, the Hillsboro School District Budget Committee approved the proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year.
The Committee, which is composed of all seven members of the School Board and an equal number of appointed citizens, listened to information presented by administration and asked questions over the span of more than two hours before voting unanimously to approve the budget and impose and categorize the tax rate as defined by law.
As presented, the Proposed 2013-14 Budget did not include the use of any discretionary reserves to help fill the $8.5 million gap between revenues and expenditures. However, after reading his budget message, Superintendent Scott, acting on feedback and suggestions received from members of the Budget Committee, recommended that instead of using $2 million of discretionary reserves toward completing high-needs facility maintenance projects, those projects instead be paid for out of Construction Excise Tax (CET) funds, and that the $2 million from reserves be used to offset increases to the staffing ratio—which had been proposed to go up to approximately 31:1 with a loss of 38 full-time equivalent (FTE) licensed positions. The $2 million infusion will save approximately 22 FTE licensed positions, for an overall loss of approximately 16 FTE licensed positions due to increases in the staffing ratio (commonly referred to as class size). The other recommended reductions to licensed staff, totaling 12.2 FTE will not be affected; therefore, the total proposed licensed FTE reduction is 28.2 (down from 50.2).
Human Resources will now revise staffing allocations accordingly and re-release those to schools.
The School Board still needs to adopt the Approved 2013-14 Budget; this is anticipated to occur at their June 11 meeting. It should also be noted that the Legislature has not yet approved the 2013-15 K-12 budget, which could come in at, below, or above the $6.55 billion number our proposed budget was based on. In addition, the five furlough days included in the proposed reductions still have to be bargained with our licensed employee union.
Approximately 35 people were in attendance at the Listening Session at Brown Middle School on Thursday, April 25, to hear Superintendent Scott explain the projected budget realities for 2013-14. Click here to see the presentation he shared.
At an assumed statewide K-12 funding allocation of $6.55 billion for the 2013-15 biennium, along with $200 million in PERS employer rate reductions, Hillsboro School District is looking at a gap between revenues and expenditures of nearly $8.2 million next school year. This will be the sixth straight year of cuts for the District, which has reduced $61.3 million from its General Fund budget since 2008-09 to deal with shortfalls.
A list of the recommended reductions is available here. It is likely with this proposal that the District will go into layoffs; the full extent of the layoffs will not be known until all resignations and retirements have been received and Human Resources has a chance to determine staffing implications.
The public is reminded that the Legislature has not yet finalized the budget and there is still time to advocate for additional K-12 funding. Please contact your elected officials to let them know your position on educational funding.
Join Representatives Ben Unger and Joe Gallegos, Senator Bruce Starr, and Superintendent Mike Scott for an Education Town Hall on Thursday, March 21, from 7-8pm in the Century High School Lecture Hall (2000 SE Century Blvd., N225). Learn more about the progress of the 2013 Legislative Session, bills that would affect education, and current thinking around the statewide K-12 budget allocation for 2013-15. Questions will be taken via lottery system; Spanish translation will be provided.
The Oregon Department of Education sent out this update on the status of federal-level sequestration today. It appears that sequestration cuts of 5% will affect our funding for IDEA (special education), Title 1 (low income) and other programs in the 2013-14 school year if nothing to reverse sequestration takes place in Congress. If reductions are also made to the funding allocation for these programs (as compared to 2012-13 funding levels), the estimated net effect could be reductions of up to 10%.
Superintendent Mike Scott prepared a message in response to the announcement of the 2013-15 proposed budget by the Co-Chairs of the Joint Ways and Means committee. The Co-Chairs' budget calls for a $6.55 billion revenue allocation, and an additional $200 million in PERS Employer Rate decreases, for K-12 education. The proposed allocation would result in a shortfall of more than $8 million in Hillsboro in the 2013-14 school year.
The 2013 Legislative Session is currently under way. Many bills will be put before elected officials that will either directly or indirectly affect education, so we urge staff, students, parents, and community members to familiarize themselves with the issues, understand where to go to track progress in the session, and know how to advocate if they so choose.
Legislators from both parties have expressed how important it is to their decision-making process to hear from their constituents, and it doesn’t have to be time consuming or intimidating to do so.
Please join us on Monday, February 11, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Liberty High School library (21945 NW Wagon Way, Hillsboro 97124) to learn more about some of the top education concerns and how to effectively advocate for change.
Spanish translation will be provided, and patrons from surrounding communities are welcome to attend as well.
This is a non-partisan, information-only event.
On Wednesday, January 9, Superintendent Mike Scott and the Board of Directors held a briefing with local elected officials on the Board’s priorities for the 2013 Legislative session.
In attendance were Senator Bruce Starr, Representative Ben Unger, Representative Joe Gallegos, Representative Jeff Barker, Hillsboro City Council President Aron Carleson, Washington County Commission President Andy Duyck, Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski, Field Representative John Valley (U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley), and Field Representative Ryan Mann (U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici), along with several staff, Board, and Budget Committee members.
Superintendent Scott kicked off the meeting by discussing the Hillsboro School District budget situation and projections for the 2013-15 biennium based on Governor Kitzhaber’s proposed allocation to K-12 education. He then shared the Board’s 2013 Legislative Priorities (to see the full Legislative Priorities brochure, click here or visit the Budget Matters webpage):
Finally, a brief discussion ensued around effective advocacy efforts. The elected officials in attendance agreed that the two most effective elements of advocacy are a common message, and personal stories from constituents.
The advocacy sub-committee, led by Communications Director Beth Graser, will be scheduling some information and training events in the coming weeks for parents, community members, and even staff who are interested in learning more and taking an active role in advocating for education in this legislative session. Stay tuned to the website for more information, or feel free to contact Beth directly via e-mail or phone: 503-844-1772.
Following the December state revenue forecast and release of Governor Kitzhaber's budget for the 2013-15 biennium, Superintendent Mike Scott prepared a budget message for staff, parents, and community members. The message outlines the Governor's proposal for K-12 education and what it would mean to the Hillsboro School District.
Below are some resources for staying current on what's happening in the 2015 legislative session:
Oregon State Legislature Website
Oregon School Boards Association's (OSBA) Hearings Schedule RSS feed. Click the link for the latest information on upcoming committee hearings or subscribe to the RSS feed yourself.
OSBA Legislative Bill Tracking
OSBA Legislative Highlights
Oregonlive.com Government Tracker