93264017

AFN numbers continue to cause concern 5/5/2003

Early AFN plans had predicted the network would start making a profit by the 2003-2004 fiscal year, but a series of missed projections capsized those expectations. A follow-up plan then projected a positive income by 2006-2007. Budget committee members and city staff had expressed faith at the time that the lower expectations would easily be met.

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Ashland schools comfortable with their own budget planning

By Amber Fossen Ashland Daily Tidings

Ashland school district officials were not caught off guard by the Oregon Legislature’s proposed 2003-05 budget.

The proposed state budget released Thursday allocates $4.83 billion of the $10.6 billion state spending plan to aid schools. ASD officials – going the conservative route – projected state support at a little more than $4.5 billion, budgeting $18.5 million for the 2003-04 school year.

The legislative budget proposal is $220 million less than what Gov. Ted Kulongoski sought for state support to public education.

According to Ashland School Board Vice-Chair Amy Amrhein, the district chose to be conservative based on past experiences.

“We don’t want to go through another year where we have to keep cutting as we go,” Amrhein said. “We built our budget assuming the worst case -$4.5 billion – and we still think the co-chairs’ budget is optimistic and we’re just going to hold to what we’re doing. We think we’re being fiscally responsible and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

To meet next year’s $18.5 million proposed ASD budget, nearly five full-time equivalent positions were approved for reduction at Monday night’s school board meeting. Total savings amount to $198,000 for the district.

The district’s 2003-04 budget stands at $1 million less than the projected operating budget for this school year, according to school officials.

ASD Business Manager Loren Luman said if the state projections hold, there may be the capacity to increase the district’s budget.

“At this point we have the capacity in this budget for some change because we were planning for the worst-case scenario,” Luman said. “At a point, anytime during this budgeting process, either with the (Budget) Committee or the (school) board, we can project upward.”

Luman said with another revenue forecast due out May 15, it would be too soon to tell if any of the recent staff reductions would be reconsidered.

“I know there are some positions we’d like to have back,” he said, adding the decision to reinstate staff would be made by recommendations from the Budget Committee with the final decision left to the school board.

The Budget Committee will have its first meeting to discuss the budget for the fiscal year July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 beginning at 7 p.m. Monday in the District Board Room, 885 Siskiyou Blvd.

Higher education will also feel the effects of the proposed spending plan. Approximately $75 million will be reduced from the Oregon University System’s budget if the proposed budget stands, which is a concern, according to Ron Bolstad, SOU vice president for administration and finance.

“This system has taken an $88 million cut in this 2001-03 biennium,” Bolstad said. The projected cut “is of concern to me,” he said.

Bolstad said the impact to SOU has not been calculated but the university will continue to hold internal budget discussions guided by ongoing strategic planning discussions which involve the campus community.

The $4.83 billion proposed budget for education could be subject to change. Legislators hope to increase the state budget by another $162 million if the Public Employee Retirement System reform is implemented this session.

However, on May 15 legislators will get an updated revenue forecast from state economists who say predictions on expected income could drop by more than $100 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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