HILLSBORO, Ore. – Whenever state legislators across the nation have debates about K-12 school funding, nervous local school administrators start throwing out the same scary words: Budget cuts and layoffs.

If an obvious tactic to stir up parents and convince them to call their legislators and whine for more K-12 funding. But usually, when the state budget is finalized, there are relatively few or no budget cuts or layoffs in the threatening districts,

About a year ago, this scenario seemed to be playing out in the Hillsboro, Oregon school district.

“The Hillsboro School District is preparing to cut millions from its budget next year, including possible layoffs, burgeoning class sizes and the elimination of programs across the district,” said an April 2017 report in the Hillsboro Tribune. “The cuts come as Oregon state lawmakers continue to struggle to fill the state’s 2017-18 budget gap.”

“Lawmakers have said the state will likely allocate between $8 billion and $8.15 billion to K-12 education in the state, but that’s not enough to keep Hillsboro, and several other school districts in Oregon, from making cuts.”

Hillsboro officials said they planned to cut between $7.5 and $12.3 million from the budget if the state didn’t cough up enough cash, the news story said.

We poked around for a follow-up to this story and saw no evidence of major layoffs or massive cost-cutting at Hillsboro schools.

But if school officials ever really needed to cut costs, they could start by zeroing in on the district’s incredibly top-heavy administrative payroll.

In fiscal year 2016-17, while the school district was pondering the big budget cuts, 79 top district administrators were making a combined $8,769,163.57 in base salary alone, for an average of $111,092.07 per employee.

With benefits added in, the total compensation paid to the top 79 swelled to $9,998,063.55, for an average of $126,557,77. All but two of the employees had total packages worth at least $100,000.

Two types of benefits had the biggest impact on the added payroll expense. They were the district’s contribution to the employee’s retirement accounts ($898,479.18, for an average of $11,317,15 per employee) and a “flex pay stipend” ($1,057,500, for an average of $13,386.08 per employee).

The six highest paid administrators had a combined total compensation of more than $1.1 million, about a tenth of the total administrative budget.

Superintendent Michael Scott made the biggest bucks, with a base salary of $205,280.89, a district paid tax-sheltered retirement contribution of $41,000, a pension contribution from the district of $22,293.50, for a total package of $269,134.59.

So if push ever really comes to shove, and the Hillsboro district needs to trim some fat to save money, there’s plenty at the top of the pay scale, just waiting to be targeted.