Bond-funded construction projects and rising pension costs have resulted in a potential budget increase of about 12% for Bend-La Pine Schools in the 2019-20 school year. The school board will vote on the proposed $505.8 million budget at its Tuesday night meeting.

One of the biggest increases in spending comes from rising costs from the Public Employees Retirement System, commonly known as PERS. The district will contribute nearly $5 million more this year in employee pensions due to PERS rates jumping statewide. Higher PERS costs will affect just about every public agency statewide in the upcoming fiscal year, including the cities of Bend and Redmond.

Roy Burling, Bend-La Pine Schools’ business manager, said the district will use much of its expected increase of state funding — over $7.5 million more than last school year — to pay for PERS costs. This increase comes from the state funding revenue, which mainly depends on student population.

The school district also plans on spending nearly $20 million more on construction and capital upgrades in the 2019-20 school year. The projects are funded by the $268.3 million bond voters approved in May 2017.

According to Brad Henry, the district’s chief financial officer, the largest project planned for 2019-20 is starting construction on the new high school on the corner of Knott Road and SE 15th Street in Bend. Construction on the building, which will have a capacity of 1,600 students, should begin in July, bend.k12.or.us/district/home/bond-project-updates">according" class="auto" target="_blank">class="auto">bend.k12.or.us/district/home/bond-project-updates">according to Bend-La Pine’s website. Street improvements, including a new road connecting Brosterhous Road and SE 15th and a roundabout at the Knott-15th intersection, has already started. Students are expected to walk through the new school’s doors in the fall of 2021.

Other capital projects for 2019-20 include finishing North Star Elementary — which is nearly finished and expected to open in September — continuing the remodel of Pilot Butte Middle School, adding secure entryways at more schools, working on roofing projects at five district buildings and conducting small renovation projects at La Pine and Elk Meadow elementary schools, according to Henry. He said the district is also creating plans for future improvements at Amity Creek Magnet at Thompson School and La Pine and High Desert middle schools.

The district plans to add about 15 full-time positions for 2019-20, according to the proposed budget. About six of those hires will be new teachers, and the rest will be classified staff, which includes bus drivers, custodial workers and teaching assistants. The district expects to spend about $3.2 million more in staff salaries than last school year.

Burling said some of these added positions come from the need for more staff at North Star.

Bend-La Pine’s proposed budget expects its student population to rise slightly, by 133 students, from grades K-12. However, the district expects elementary enrollment to dip for a majority of schools. Burling cited a couple of reasons: A large incoming sixth grade class is moving up to the middle schools, and birthrates were down during the recession a decade ago. In an email, he wrote that having less crowded elementary schools was a positive.

“With the addition of North Star Elementary School, we are looking forward to all schools starting the year under capacity, giving principals the ability to create flexible spaces as needed for serving their students,” Burling wrote.

The three elementary schools with the largest anticipated population drops are High Lakes, Lava Ridge and Ponderosa, which are all affected by attendance boundaries changing in the wake of North Star’s opening.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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