Next year’s Oregon School District budget will be manageable but tight for additional programming, with the new $46 million school under construction and growth not yet as robust as expected.

That was the forecast business manager Andy Weiland gave to school board members in his annual Five Year budget plan with projections through 2024-25.

In a report to the board Monday, Feb. 24, he wrote the 2020-21 budget (fiscal year beginning July 1) will be extremely tight, with the added costs of the Forest Edge Elementary School and the district currently projecting a growth of 150 K-12 students. Weiland said that is less than anticipated.

The study, used by district officials when proposing the referendum, projected K-12 enrollment of 4,443 students by the 2020-21 school year, with the Terravessa Development in Fitchburg as the main source of growth. This year’s official “Third Friday” count in September, used to help determine state funding, was 3,670, with around 20 additional students added since, Weiland said.

While that number is several hundred short, Weiland said the development recently completed the majority of its infrastructure, so those numbers could be changing soon.

“We anticipate significantly more growth in the next six months as houses are coming on line,” he said. “The infrastructure for this type of growth is clearly available within Oregon and Fitchburg communities, (it’s) a matter of if families with school age students will build or move into existing homes in our district over the next six months.”

OSD superintendent Brian Busler said the five-year plan is all part of the challenge fast-growing districts have under the state’s school funding formula to estimate future student populations.

“In a couple of months, things can change so quickly,” he wrote in an email to the Observer. “The Roffers study was projecting growth over the next decade … it’s hard. It’s all a function of how quickly folks move into the district.”

Busler said if the district ends up getting more or fewer students than the projections, it’s prepared.

“We’re in a good situation either way, because we didn’t build Forest Edge just for new growth, it was to alleviate some overcrowding,” he said.

The next trigger point in how the district manages growth, Busler said, is determining timing on a planned middle school. The district purchased land for that, on the southern edge of Fitchburg, during the 2018 referendum.

“The middle school will really help us address growth, and if growth comes fast, then the need to build the middle school will come faster,” he said.

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.