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State School Board approves $6.55 billion budget, keeps things same for LCSD #7

Oregon School Board Association worked long hours on a school board budget that, at one point, had been rumored to reach up to $7 billion.

Legislators failed to agree on a deal up to that point, but they did settle on a $6.55 billion budget for the entire state.

Lake County School District No. 7 Supt. Sean Gallagher stated that the School Board would be thrilled had the state legislature agreed on the $7 billion budget, but said that the budget they did approve will keep things on an even keel for Lake County.

Having the additional funds would have allowed Lakeview schools to resurrect programs and hire additional employees.

“That funding package would have allowed schools to start investing and making improvements and bringing back programs and staffing they’ve lost,” said Gallagher. “Six point fifty-five billion dollars, for us, is a hold steady budget.”

Senate Bill 822 adds an additional $200 million to that budget in PERS relief for district employees. When added to the budget, the total comes out to $6.75 billion.

The volatility of that PERS legislation, however, has Gallagher and the rest of the School Board in a tough spot.

Due to the ongoing debate the bill has sparked, Gallagher is hesitant to build the extra $200 million into the school budget, as the state could just as soon ask for the money back.

“Our portion of the PERS money is going to be set aside because we don’t know where the litigation will go,” said Gallagher. “Our recommendation is to sit on it for now.”

LCSD # 7 will reportedly freeze the money until Gov. John Kitzhaber signs the bill into law.

The money would, according to Gallagher, roll back cost-of-living for existing retirees at 2 percent annually, but the interest would skyrocket for the next biennium if the school board had to pay it back.

Because of the political scrutiny of the bill, a resolution is expected to be pushed forward, giving it top priority.

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