PERS hike a $1.6 M blow to schools

The bad news is out: PERS rates are going up.

“The PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) Board has released employer PERS rates for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 biennium,” said Nick Hogan, Hood River County School District financial director, to the school board at its Oct. 10 meeting. “Unfortunately, the rate for Hood River County School District is close to what we predicted earlier.”

Hogan said the new rate for Tier 1 (employees entering the plan on or before Dec. 31, 1995) and Tier 2 (those entering between Jan. 1, 1996 and Aug. 29, 2003) will include a 18.19 percent employer contribution, plus a 6 percent PERS pickup, plus 8.8 percent for PERS bonds, for a total rate of 32.99 percent.

“This represents an increase of 7.65 percent of payroll, for a General Fund cost increase of approximately $1.6 million for the 2013-14 school year as it stands right now,” Hogan said. “We do not know how much of this expected increase might be mitigated by legislative action, or how much will be offset by increases in state school funds.

“The increase is large, but not unexpected,” Hogan said. “PERS warned us two years ago that a second large increase was expected.”

The increase is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2013. Rates are adjusted every two years, he said.

“There is significant attention being paid to the statewide PERS problem by employer groups and the state legislature,” Hogan said. “I am confident the state legislature will be successful in making system-wide changes to reduce the increase.

“Although certain large changes have been overturned by the courts in the past, the current list of topics being discussed includes many small individual changes that collectively add up to a significant difference,” he said. “In the meantime, we are working on our budget here in Hood River to continue to offer the very best programs we can.”

PERS is Oregon’s statewide pension system for all public service workers and is funded by contributions from state agencies, the university system, local governments and the largest employer group, school districts. Hogan said the city and county would be hit with increases as well.

Hogan said that Jim Green, deputy chief of the Oregon School Boards Association, has asked the PERS board to urge Gov. John Kitzhaber to create a blue-ribbon committee to direct the legislature in reforming PERS during the 2013 legislative session.

“We need statewide leadership on this issue,” Green told the PERS board, according to a story in the News Center on OSBA’s website ( “It’s time for Gov. Kitzhaber to step to the plate and form a blue ribbon panel to get the issue under control.”

Green was also quoted as acknowledging to the board that there are “no villains” in the PERS system — not public employees, their unions, the PERS board or retirees.

The Hood River County School District’s $1.6 million increase pales in comparison to other areas of the state. Jim Green’s own Salem-Keizer School District, for which he is a board member, will be hit with a cost increase of $11 million next year, according to the OSBA website.

A Sept. 28 story in The Oregonian reported that Portland public schools will see increased costs of more than $14 million. That translates to roughly nine days cut from the school year, according to the schools’ deputy chief financial officer, David Wynde.

For Nick Hogan’s full report visit and click School Board, then Board Meetings, then Oct. 10 Minutes.

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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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