Medford School District Proposes Balanced Budget Focused on Student Achievement
April 29, 2019
Medford School District (MSD) Superintendent Brian Shumate presented a balanced budget for the 2019-20 school year to the Medford School District Budget Committee Monday night. The budget prioritizes continued strategies and initiatives already leading to improvements in student achievement and outcomes. The strategies are:
- Increase quality student-teacher contact time
- Continue expansion of career pathways
- Continue expansion of dual and articulated credit offerings
- Continue expansion of instructional technology and improved education effectiveness and efficiency to improve 21st century learning
- Improve educational and operational effectiveness and efficiency
- Educate the whole child
“We believe the recent improvements in student achievement and outcomes within the Medford School District are directly attributed to the hard work of Medford’s educators, support staff, and students as well as the implementation of these strategies,” said Superintendent Brian Shumate in his budget message.
MSD’s graduation rate rose from 65% of students graduating in four years in 2014 to 80% of students graduating on time in 2018. State assessment results and attendance rates are also on the rise.
The MSD expects an increase in funding from the state this year. For its proposed budget, the district used the 2019-21 biennium budget proposed by the state’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means, often referred to as the co-chairs budget. This includes $8.8715 billion in the state school funding for the biennium, an increase of 8.18% over the prior biennium funding of $8.2 of billion. For the first year of the 2019-21 biennium, MSD’s portion is anticipated at $151 million for the general fund, and an increase of $5.8 million over the previous year.
The majority of the district’s expenditures go to salaries and benefits for its 1,400 staff members, at nearly 80% of the total general fund budget. Approximately $4.93 million or 83% of this year’s projected $5.8 million increase in revenue will go toward covering increases in employee payroll benefits. The increase in employee payroll benefits is mostly due to a projected $3.87-million-dollar increase in PERS costs for the district, primarily to address the PERS plan’s unfunded liability. Statewide, Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System is only 69% funded and the MSD has seen its PERS costs rise by $8.0 million or 58% over the last four years alone. PERS costs are expected to rise further in the 2021-23 biennium, by an estimated $5 million per year.
“Without changes in PERS or the way we fund education, we expect to see pretty big cuts in the next biennium,” said Dr. Shumate.
Another financial challenge comes with the district’s commitment to serve all students in light of an increased need for supporting student behaviors. While district enrollment is up 5% in the last four years, the percentage of students who are eligible for Special Education (SpEd) is up 34% over the same time period. The state of Oregon provides extra funding per student for students eligible for Special Education who are on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), only up to 11% of the district’s total population. MSD now has 15% of its students on IEPs and is projecting that number to increase to 16% in 2019-20. As a result of the 11% cap on additional funding, the state is underfunding the services MSD provides to students eligible for special education by approximately $6 million per year.
“We believe our district provides a place for every kid and our investments in this budget show we are committed to it,” said Dr. Shumate. “It is a real challenge to balance the budget these days with the high costs I’ve noted in my budget message.”
In an effort to continue providing a high quality education to all students, MSD is adding eleven full time equivalent (FTE) staff this year. Six FTE in the Special Education Department, specializing in early intervening services, psychological services and behavior supports. Two FTE will provide services in the district’s new online school, one FTE will support a new dual language program and two FTE will be allocated to the district’s Information Technology (IT) department. Over the last five years, the MSD has added 196 FTE, 145 in the area of instruction for students.
“Our student enrollment has continued to grow, partly due to a renewed parent confidence in our schools and partly due to population growth in the region,” said Dr. Shumate. “We appreciate the partnership and commitment of our community to our students as we improve student achievement, reduce opportunity gaps and transform the Medford School District for generations to come.”
The next Budget Committee meeting will be held Monday, May 13 at 6 pm in the Medford School District Boardroom. The public will have an opportunity to comment. All Budget Committee meetings are posted on the MSD website.