Oregon school budget OK’d, wrangling continues

Inside the Oregon legislature (KOIN 6 News, file)
Inside the Oregon legislature (KOIN 6 News, file)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon state senators finally passed a nearly $7 billion budget to pay for schools on Wednesday, and the bill is expected to pass once it reaches the House.

But some people say the politics behind the lengthy budget battle already hurt the state’s schools.

“We had to cut $17.7 million from the budget,” said Salem-Keizer schools spokesperson Jay Remy. “The problem is this is about Year 4 of major cuts for us and we have not been able to add anything back.”

Even those districts that are in better shape have also been forced to put their budget together on guesswork.

State senators battled for months before passing the $6.75 billion budget — $1 billion more than last year — by a vote of 22-8. Of that money, $200 million is from Public Employees Retirement System(PERS) savings.

“The sad fact is we’re kind of familiar with this,” Remy told KOIN 6 News. “There was always a big question mark about whether they were going to come in with something a lot lower than what we budgeted on.”

Senate President Peter Courtney said this could have been done sooner.

“I really wish this budget had been run in April, I urged it be run in April. I don’t want to point fingers but I thought we could start doing it in March,” the Democrat said.

The sides are pointing fingers and arguing over whether the final product is good, and some argue the wait was actually good for the schools.

“The delay is caused by our effort to get them more resources, smaller class sizes, add back teachers,” said Senate Republican leader Ted Ferrioli.

Even though he doesn’t like the budget, Republican Jeff Kruse voted for it and acknowledged schools got caught in the middle.

“It isn’t fair and we had wanted to do this earlier,” Kruse said, “but as long as the PERS issue is hanging out.”

Jay Remy, though, would just like to see budgets go smoother.

“I think everybody who follows school funding in Oregon would like to see the system a lot more stable a lot more predictable, and a lot more adequate for our schools,” he said.

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