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ASD panel crunches numbers

By Amber Fossen Ashland Daily Tidings

Ashland School District Budget Committee members will meet for the first time Monday night over the proposed 2003-04 school budget.

Committee members will each receive a copy of the drafted budget for review before its final adoption by the board no later than June 30. The budget stands at $18.5 million for next school year, although it may be subject to change depending on a number of factors including state funding, teacher contract negotiations, the pass or failure of the Youth Activities Levy, insurance costs and changes to the Public Employee Retirement System.

According to Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, the projected budget -although based on a conservative estimate of $4.5 billion in state funding for schools – will remain where it is for the time being.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski released a revised $11 billion budget proposal Friday for the 2003-05 budget biennium, outlining $4.9 billion in state support to local schools.

“We don’t know what they’re (legislators) going to settle on and none of these numbers will mean anything until they’re settled upon,” Di Chiro said.

“With all of those unknowns, I still think that where we stand with our budget right now is where we need to stay until some of those things get resolved.”

The Budget Committee – which includes members Howard Braham, Jill Turner, John Schleining, Andy Dungan and Carol Davis – was appointed by the school board to review and recommend changes to the budget draft. The proposed budget is for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

School officials said there will be several upcoming dates that will impact the budget committee’s process. The current proposed budget calls for freezing district staff salaries but negotiations with unions will not be complete until mid-May which may alter the budget draft.

Other considerations include, insurance rates, the levy’s passage or failure to be determined in the May 20 election, plus decisions regarding alterations to PERS which should be released at the conclusion of the legislative session in June.

Braham said the first step is to see the budget and the committee will go from there.

“In trying to figure out can we do this, can we do that, we have to see what the budget is before we can take the next step,” Braham said.

Members will receive their copy of the proposed budget Monday. The agenda calls for a general overview of the committee’s charge and the scheduling of subsequent meetings. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m., in the District Board Room, 885 Siskiyou Blvd.

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