Medford Schools respond to Gov. Brown’s PERS address

Medford, Ore. — Two headlines came out of today’s announcement. First, if you haven’t paid your state taxes – Oregon’s government is coming after you. Second, PERS reform has to happen.

“My office has looked at a number of ways to take advantage of state assets to buy down the pers unfunded liability,” Governor Kate Brown said Thursday at a press conference.

One of the main topics of the governors announcement Thursday – PERS.

“I’m appointing a task force,” Governor Brown said.

That task force will review and propose options for making billions of dollars in payments toward the unfunded part of the public employees retirement fund.

If the task force can find the money, the state won’t have to use as much of the general fund for PERS.

“Roughly 600 to 800 million dollars is owed to the state general fund. This is money that could go to schools,” Governor Brown said.

Schools like those in 549C. Natalie Hurd is the spokesperson for the Medford School District, where PERS has been an ongoing discussion.

“This is a big burden for all public employers to take on,” Hurd said.

Fortunately, the school district planned proactively and set aside money to pay off PERS for the next biennia.

“For us, that’s going to be $2.8 million,” Hurd said.

Curious as to where that comes from?

“That money comes from our general funds. The same place that we pay for salaries for teachers and support staff. It’s also where we get all of our money for services for kids,” Hurd said.

That multi-million dollar hit equates to around 2% of the district’s overall budget, and it’s expecting to pay that for the next four biennia. Though, how they’ll continue to pay for the next four biennia – is still in the works.

“We are hopeful for any kind of PERS reform,” Hurd said.

Other local school districts will also be footing the PERS bill. Grants Pass School District is projected to pay $1.4 million.

PERS in the state of Oregon is only 70% funded. Public employers will begin paying for their portion this summer.

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