Sketchy numbers lead to Roseburg layoffs

More than two dozen Roseburg Chapter 21 members fought the good fight by filling their school board meeting room to standing capacity, most wearing buttons that read “Staff Cuts Hurt Kids.” Sadly, neither our cause nor classified employees’ vital contributions to schools were acknowledged by the school board.

Without any significant explanation or sympathy expressed toward workers losing their jobs, the Roseburg School Board approved a 2017-18 budget that eliminates dozens of instructional assistant and other classified positions.

Board members made no attempt to defend hoarding cash in a debt service fund, and the superintendent said the district may pursue a supplemental budget if and when education funding from the state increases above early estimates. The district based its budget on a $7.8 billion statewide education appropriation, even as an $8.2 billion funding package is rapidly gaining traction at the Legislature.

The district’s approach was puzzling, said OSEA Director of Fiscal Operations Brad Larsen.

“Taking money out of the classroom by making these reductions and putting it in a fund for some future date is very concerning to us,” Larsen said.

Our earlier story is below:

Roseburg Public Schools has been stashing money for years, yet the district claims they must lay off dozens of education employees due to a budget shortfall. Here are some important questions:

Why is Roseburg Public Schools hoarding millions of education dollars?

The district is siphoning valuable dollars — nearly $1 million per year — into a debt service fund, stockpiling a huge surplus in its PERS Debt Service Fund. The proposed 2017-18 budget proposes adding another $814,065 to this surplus, while simultaneously claiming an $800,000 budget shortfall. Which is it?

What is the PERS Debt Service Fund?

Roseburg Public Schools issued bonds in 2003 and 2004 to refinance the district’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) unfunded actuarial liability. The debt owed is on a pre-determined repayment schedule that only slightly increases each year. Instead of charging other funds the annual amount owed to service the debt the district has chosen to overcharge other funds each year since 2013-14 (graph above) resulting in a skyrocketing and unnecessary ending fund balance. Because the costs are known, there’s no reason to have a surplus, much less millions of dollars. The district has accumulated one of the largest PERS Debt Service Fund balances in the state, but has not explained why.

Why did the district base its budget on outdated state education funding proposals?

State legislators are proposing allocating $8.2 billion to the state school fund which would result in  $56,405,168 in formula funding to Roseburg schools — $3,767,184 more than  the district’s 2017-18 proposed budget of $52,637,984 in formula funding. Between this and the $5.8 million set aside in the PERS Debt Service Fund, the district has  nearly  $10 million in additional resources to plug the alleged $800,000 shortfall.

Why is Roseburg Public Schools stashing millions of dollars while threatening to lay off dozens of classroom staff and other important employees?

District officials have not explained these facts. Parents, kids, taxpayers and education staff deserve an answer.

For more information contact: Brad Larsen, 503-588-0121, brad@osea.org

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