The Pendleton School District budget committee will bring a kinder, gentler budget to the board next month.

“There are no furlough days and a small cost-of-living increase,” said Michelle Jones, the school district director of business services, of the proposed $29.08 million 2012-13 budget. “We’re not making any reductions for the first time since… .”

She faltered. Jones took the helm in 2009 after an especially tumultuous year. This is the first budget cycle she’s seen as director in which cuts were not necessary. Before that, she worked eight years as assistant to previous director Bob Reese.

It’s been a long time coming, she said. She and Reese dealt with doomsday scenarios at least twice over the past decade.

“It’s the first time in a long time the board won’t have to grapple with cuts,” said Jones’ boss, Superintendent Jon Peterson.

Last year, the district took a $2 million hit. Sixteen full-time jobs disappeared and the board was forced to cut funding for alternative education, music, outdoor school and athletics.

The previous year, the district slashed more than $5 million. The school year ended early that year after the district trimmed 13 days off the school calendar to save dollars.

This year, the budget committee found easier going.

Jones and Peterson said the district’s conservative approach in previous cycles gave the committee some breathing room this time around. Also helpful was an increase of 29 students over the same time last year, reversing a downward trend. Each of Oregon’s 200 school districts receive about $9,600 per student.

The budget included funding for a new full-time person to run a drop-out prevention program called Success 101. The program is part of the state’s new Achievement Compact that aims to have 40 percent of Oregonians earning four-year college degrees, 40 percent with two-year degrees and 20 percent will have earned high school diplomas.

Jones was cautious about the district’s financial improvement.

“We’re absolutely not doing back flips, but hopefully we’re making the turn,” she said.

Peterson said he celebrates this budget, but wonders about the future.

“It’s definitely a nice feeling,” he said. “But beyond looms a backdrop of uncertainty and instability. Our state hasn’t been able to provide adequate funding for schools — that problem hasn’t been fixed.”

Jones said she will present the budget to the Pendleton School Board for adoption June 11.

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