How 4J’s Deficit Got in the Millions

November 5, 2010

By Gia Vang

EUGENE, Ore. — The 4J School District faces a $30 million budget shortfall.

After unveiling a proposal this week to close schools and layoff hundreds of staff members, the district is answering questions about how it got itself into that hole.

District administrators point to several reasons such as a decline in state funding because there are fewer students, and also a decline in property taxes, which the state relies on to allocate funds to its school districts.  They say the gap widened over the years because of increasing costs.

But administrators say if you want to get to the root of it all, start with Measure 5, which voters passed in the 1990s.

That measure capped property taxes given to schools from the state.

It also equalized funding for all districts.

Eugene 4J administrators say that was great for smaller school districts, but not a bigger district like theirs.  They say Measure 5 was followed by several other measures that cut into school funding — all compounded by a very recent sluggish economy.

“Really, it’s not just Measure 5 years ago or Measure 47 years ago.  You put all that together and along comes the great recession,” said Kerry Delf, 4J School District Spokesperson.

Eugene 4J says 87 percent of the funds they have now goes to pay employees.

The 4J School District says its budget plans are not final, and it’s still looking for input before the board makes a decision in early January.

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