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School district furloughs 35 in uncertainty over state funds

Superintendent Tom Rogozinski
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Warrenton-Hammond School District furloughed 35 classified employees, placed a temporary freeze on hiring and is making other belt-tightening moves as the COVID-19 pandemic decimates the budgets of schools and local governments.

On Wednesday night, the school board gave preliminary approval to a 2020-21 budget that includes $11.7 million in expenditures with an expected $12 million in revenue.

Schools in Oregon had expected a bit of a windfall in the coming year as businesses pay the state’s brand new Corporate Activity Tax. The Student Investment Accounts each district created to spend the money were to help the most vulnerable students achieve success.

Warrenton-Hammond had expected more than $900,000 in SIA money. But with the virus unleashing fiscal agony on so many businesses, it’s unclear how much new money will come. And funding from the Oregon Lottery and marijuana taxes is expected to drop as well.

In addition, payments to the Public Employee Retirement System and for health insurance rose markedly.

“It is in this context that we have built the budget,” Superintendent Tom Rogozinski told board members. “It’s not overly dire, but it’s not overly optimistic, either. … We’ve created an opportunity for us to be agile.”

The budget is balanced – a state requirement – and “affords the flexibility demanded by these uncertain times,” Rogozinski said.

It’s still unclear what classes will look like in the fall.

“Chances are very high we will start school in the fall with something other than a typical school year,” he said. “We expect some form of remote or distance learning with, perhaps, the ability to bring some students into the building at specific times. … We’re in a somewhat wait-and-see mode.”

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