The Oregon school board on Tuesday approved a general fund reduction plan proposed by Superintendent Dr. Mike Zalar that cuts $3.2 million from the budget. The plan eliminates 78 positions in the school system, including thirty-one teachers and two administrators next year.
A variety of classified positions will also be eliminated, such as bus drivers and library aides.
Thirteen more positions, representing $588,000 in cuts, may be required if the board cannot reach agreements with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and the Oregon City Federation of Teachers, the district’s unions.
“This is an unfortunate day for Oregon City Schools,” School Board President Jeff Ziviski told The Press. “Each individual member of our school system is valuable and irreplaceable. Tasks and responsibilities can be reassigned, but the people and their knowledge base can never be replaced. We are losing many valuable employees and will need to restructure in the midst of these layoffs and make sure we continue to put ourselves in a position to provide a high quality education to our students.”
The board has made significant budget cuts and put a 5.9-mill operating levy on the ballot in the last few years to avoid looming budget deficits.
The district faces a $1.9 million deficit at the end of the 2009-10 school year, $7 million the following year, and $23.4 million in 2012-13.
“We have tried to resolve the situation with the previous reduction two years ago, but that was not enough,” said Ziviski. “This time, we had to review the staffing levels of the district and compare that to the district’s enrollment trends and make the appropriate adjustments in staffing.”
Much of the district’s financial woes is attributable to House Bill 66, passed in June, 2005. The bill phases out tax on tangible personal property of general businesses, telephone and telecommunications companies and railroads.
“Prior to House Bill 66, when we were receiving $10-$12 million more each year, the district had the ability to have smaller class sizes with a 16-1 student-teacher ratio,” said Ziviski. “With the loss of these funds, which took away 25 percent of our revenue stream, we are forced to increase our class sizes. With the reductions, our class sizes will have a student-teacher ratio of around 23-1.”
Ziviski emphasized that program and course offerings are being reduced, but not eliminated.
“We will still have all the programs, such as art, music, and physical education, but the number of classes will be less than what we offered previously,” he said. “Our goal was to keep all our programs in place and continue to offer a variety of courses for our students. I believe with the reduction plan that Dr. Zalar recommended, we are able to achieve this goal.”
Ziviski called the general fund reduction plan a “turning point” for the Oregon City Schools District.
“While we have had to let some of our family go, this is an opportunity to adjust to the current economic conditions and recreate the district into a smaller, more effective organization,” said Ziviski. “We need to adjust to become a high performing low-cost district. In five to 10 years, I believe that people will look back to this time and realize that the actions taken by Dr. Zalar and the board put the district in a position to reestablish itself as a premier public school system in the state. It may be rough to see that now, but I have great faith in Dr. Zalar, the teachers, students, parents, and the entire community.”
“The Board of Education is confident,” said Zalar, “that the overall educational impact on student learning will be reasonable and that the high quality and standards for academic achievement will remain high. Oregon City Schools is currently designated an “Effective” school district by the Ohio Department of Education.”
The Oregon school district currently enrolls 3,800 students.