HomeTop StoriesSalem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Castañeda proposes 'stark' 2024-2025 budget

Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Castañeda proposes ‘stark’ 2024-2025 budget

Salem-Keizer Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Castañeda has proposed a $646.5 million general budget for the 2024-2025 school year.

That’s about $21.5 million, or 3.4%, more than the current school year’s budget.

But it’s not enough to keep up with rising costs, said Castañeda, who blamed rising payroll costs and the loss of federal COVID-19 aid.

“Salem-Keizer’s 2024-2025 budget reflects a foretold moment in Oregon and across the country: the final, grim intersection of flawed and failing school funding policies and school systems trying to meet the rapidly escalating needs of their students,” she said Tuesday night. in her presentation to the district’s budget committee.

Castañeda took over as superintendent last July. This is her first budget in the district.

The proposal cuts the equivalent of 224 full-time teachers and 138.75 support workers.

“We recognize and regret the pain of this budget, but we cannot allow ambivalence or hesitation to get in the way of our fiduciary and ethical responsibilities to Salem-Keizer Public Schools,” Castañeda said.

Falling enrollment in Salem-Keizer district, rising costs

Salem-Keizer’s enrollment is expected to decline again next year, from approximately 38,648 to 38,061 students. That is approximately the same number as during the 2006-2007 school year.

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Since 2006-07, the district’s workforce has grown by 47% across all employee groups.

It is now more difficult and expensive to serve students, requiring more staff, Castañeda said.

“We get money to provide education,” she said. “But we are expected to provide medical care, solutions to food and housing insecurity, social work, laundry services, crisis intervention, mental and behavioral health care, and more.”

Additionally, special education costs are rising and students and families continue to suffer the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Castañeda’s proposed budget includes $48 million for mental and behavioral health services, the largest amount in the district’s history.

The overall budget for Salem-Keizer Public Schools is decreasing

The general fund is the district’s primary day-to-day operating fund.

Other funds include capital projects, grants and self-sustaining services.

In total, the district plans to spend $1.1 billion next school year. That’s $187 million, or 14%, less than the current school year’s budget.

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Much of that decline is due to lower spending on a 2018 voter-approved construction bond. Spending in that fund will drop from $202 million this year to $46.2 million next year as construction projects are completed.

The district also expects to receive $46.7 million less in grants, including federal COVID-19 funding.

$60 million remains unused

Castañeda’s proposal will leave $60 million unused in the general fund at the end of the 2024-2025 school year.

That balance, which will carry over to next year’s budget, has been controversial, with the district’s unions and some parents pushing for it to be spent to maintain current programs.

Castañeda has said the balance is necessary for the district to continue paying its bills in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as delays in the disbursement of state school fund payments.

The budgeted transfer of general funds is lower than in the last five years and totals 9% of planned expenditure. This falls within the school board’s target of 7% to 10%.

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Opportunities for public input

Now the district’s budget committee, made up of the seven school board directors and seven appointed community members, will provide public testimony on the proposed budget.

The committee will provide advice to the school board, which must approve the final spending plan before June 30.

These are the upcoming dates:

  • 6:00 PM Tuesday, May 14: The Budget Committee will hear public testimony and consider the proposal.

  • 6:00 PM Monday, May 20: The Budget Committee will hear public testimony, consider and vote on the proposal.

  • 6:00 PM Tuesday, May 21 and Wednesday, May 22: Preliminary meetings are planned if further debate is required before a vote. Public comment may or may not be received.

The meetings will take place in person at the district boardroom, located at 2575 Commercial St. SE in Salem, and will also be streamed live.

More information is available at https://salkeiz.k12.or.us/about/budget.

Tracy Loew covers education in the Statesman Journal. Send comments, questions and tips: tloew@statesmanjournal.com or 503-399-6779. Follow her on Twitter at @Tracy_Loew

This article originally appeared in the Salem Statesman Journal: Salem-Keizer schools superintendent proposes ‘stark’ budget

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