School budget: The question of what to keep

The figure $5.05 billion sounds positively enormous compared to $150 million.

The first number is the working figure in the 2003-05 state School Budget, under an Oregon House bill passed last week. The second figure is the amount of money the state technically has to fund programs — overall — in its coffers as of Tuesday morning, given the Legislature’s impasse over a biennial budget.

What’s at stake for Hood River County Schools are cuts totalling $765,000 that the School Board is almost certainly going to need to make in its 2003-04 budget.

It may seem like a small amount, in a Dirksenian sense — the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen being famous for his 1960s observation, “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

But $765,000 is truly real money for this community, and it falls to a newly-assembled group of people to make the decision, should it come, of how to cut that much more from the already-strapped School District budget.

New school board members Karen Ostrye, Kathleen Malone and Ramona Ropek join second-year members Mike Oates and Patricia Schmuck and veterans Anne Saxby and Jan Veldhuisen Virk, the board president. At the newcomers’ second meeting, Aug. 13, they will be part of renewed discussions about how to cut more from the budget without causing harm to educational quality.

It should be noted that the 2003-04 school district budget was adopted with $1.3 million in revenue in a projected local option tax election. Because of uncertainty about the actual state revenue, a community committee recommended shelving the proposed local option tax election slated for September 2003. The School Board decided to take additional cuts if state funds were insufficient to backfill the items listed for the local option. It appears that task is now before them.

We wish all the school board, and new superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady and the administration patience and plenty of sleep as they work through this significant challenge.

Last week Evenson-Brady presented a range of potential cuts the board might consider; the options included cuts to the elementary physical education and music programs, which was brought forth in spring 2003 by interim superintendent Rick Eggers during 2003-04 budget preparations

Another of the options discussed last spring, switching to full-day kindergarten, will not be considered. “It’s not one we can do on short notice,” Evenson-Brady said.

However, there is another option the district should take off the table, that of cutting PE and music. The impassioned testimony of dozens of people — students, parents, and district employees — who last spring spoke out against those cuts clearly demonstrated the definitive importance of retaining those programs.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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