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Crowd supports KRVM radio.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

KRVM station manager Carl Sundberg had an unexpected message for the Eugene School Board and Budget Committee on Wednesday: Go ahead. Cut our funding.

But he followed it up with a heartfelt caveat.

"Give us the permission to go looking for every possible way for this radio station to survive for my kids," Sundberg said after choking back tears at the podium.

The room erupted in applause at Sundberg's offer to find a way - quickly - to make the station pay its own way. At least 150 KRVM supporters - toddlers and grandmothers and all types in between - had crammed into the Education Center auditorium, pleading for the survival of the beloved public radio station, now in its 55th year.

The station appears on a list of $1.4 million in proposed cuts to district central services, the first round in what officials believe will be a brutal budget-balancing act for the 2003-05 biennium. The district spends about $100,000 a year on KRVM, most of it on Sundberg's salary and benefits.

The station's other funding sources include contributions from listeners, underwriting and grant money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One of the conditions for that grant - $70,000 this year - is that the station have five full-time employees.

Sundberg's scheme for saving the station is, in essence, to give up that grant and its strings, cut two or three positions and make up whatever difference there may be by ramping up fund raising and exploring other funding alternatives.

If the past few days are any indication, listeners are ready and willing to do their part. In the five days since the possible cut made the news, the station has raised $40,000, Sundberg said.

Close to 50 people signed up to testify on behalf of KRVM, although only a few were able to in the half-hour the board and committee allotted.

A couple of students spoke about what working at KRVM has meant to them and their education. The station's main studio is at Sheldon High School, with satellite studios at other schools.

Students gain broadcasting and engineering experience on the FM station, while the AM station is leased to Jefferson Public Radio.

Mike Mohr, a Sheldon senior who works on the daily "Good Solid Programming" show, called it "one of the most unique and amazing experiences, one that I will remember for the rest of my life."

Board Chairwoman Jan Oliver implored the audience to remember that much more than KRVM is at stake.

"This is the most heavily populated Budget Committee meeting we've ever had, despite the millions and millions we've cut," said Oliver, who has served on the board since the early 1990s.

In fact, the board and committee spent little time discussing KRVM, other than nodding in agreement when Superintendent George Russell asked if members wanted to let Sundberg bring them a counter- proposal.

Among the other job cuts proposed are 9.5 positions from the facilities department, two technology specialists, the multicultural coordinator, the communications coordinator, a budget analyst and one curriculum coordinator. "What we're doing is absolutely eroding the infrastructure of a large business," board member Virginia Thompson said.

The district is basing its budget projections on a state allocation of $4.8 billion for K-12 education, which would equate to deficits for the district of $2.6 million next year and $5 million in 2004-05.

That assumes a freeze in employee wages and benefits - something unions may not accept.

The district is bargaining contracts with both its certified and classified employees.

The groups discussed other cuts that may lie ahead, such as school closures, shortening the school year and eliminating teaching positions. Russell said he started with the central service cuts in hopes of sparing classrooms to the greatest extent possible.

"The problem is, I think we're going to end up there anyway," he said.

Budget Committee member John "Mac" McFadden said students may have to suffer before the public truly understands the depth of the state's financial crisis.

"Sometimes you have to stop trying to protect them and say, this is the reality, this is what's going to happen," he said.
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Title Annotation:The school station's manager offers to find alternative funding; Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 10, 2003
Words:694
Previous Article:BRIEFLY.
Next Article:For the Record.


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