ANOTHER VOICE:School Board seeks to improve public trust

Hood River County School District, like all Oregon school districts, is required by law to adopt a balanced budget every year.

This budget — just like your home budget — ensures the district has plans in place to operate within its means. The budget process we begin tonight is an open forum to review and discuss the budget proposal we receive from our administration. We welcome your participation in this important process.

Recently, our district has confronted difficult financial problems that have forced us to reexamine how we conduct our financial affairs. In the 2011-12 school year, the district spent more money on classrooms, programs and district operations that, in retrospect, should have gone into savings.

An independent investigation concluded that while there was no wrongdoing, the manner by which the budget is developed, implemented and communicated needs to be improved.

Over the past few weeks, the changes instituted include the following items:

  • Improve communication between the financial department, administration and board.
  • Create a financial review committee
  • Involve more administrators in developing and overseeing the budget
  • Improve the content and detail of financial reports
  • Expand the budget calendar to include three-year projections

We are confident these steps will significantly improve our financial procedures and restore trust in the board’s management of the district’s fiscal operations. The board believes that sound financial management is one of our most important tasks, and the recent events have reminded us of the trust the community and staff has placed in our hands. We can, and we will, do whatever is necessary to maintain that trust moving forward. So, at this time we would like to ask you to join the board and budget committee in reviewing the budget for the upcoming school year to ensure our district continues to provide a quality education for our students. By listening to your concerns and answering your questions, we believe that together we can use this budget process to fulfill our mission of providing an educational system of excellence, effectiveness and fiscal accountability.

Jan Veldhuisen Virk, of Hood River, is chair of the Hood River County School District Board of Directors.

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Lawnmower torches Arbor Vitae on Portland Drive

The riding lawn mower driven by Norma Cannon overheated and made contact with dry arbor vitae owned by Lee and Norma Curtis, sending more than a dozen of the tightly-packed trees up in flames. The mower, visible at far right, was totaled. No one was injured; neighbors first kept the fire at bay with garden hoses and Westside and Hood River Fire Departments responded and doused the fire before it reached any structures. Westside Fire chief Jim Trammell, in blue shirt, directs firefighters. The video was taken by Capt. Dave Smith of Hood River Fire Department. Enlarge

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