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School board makes budget cuts

The South Kitsap School District Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a 2007-08 budget that includes cuts and adjustments amounting to $1.7 million.

The adjustments are areas in which the district pulled funding from one area and placed it in another. Occasionally the district can take other funding sources — such as Initiative 728 — to help alleviate those funds. The direct cuts amount to around $1.1 million.

The cuts are due, in part, to continued student enrollment losses, legislated cost-of-living increases (COLAs) and loss of level equalization funds.

The district budgeted for 160 fewer students than were in actual attendance during the 2005-06 school year, and as enrollment decreases, overall school costs increase with inflation.

This year’s COLAs are good news for teachers, but as Superintendent Bev Cheney said at the end of this year’s legislation, “The devil is in the details.”

The state only funds COLAs for state-funded positions, leaving districts to work the budget to pay for certificated employees funded through levies and grants.

Levies often account for COLAs and increased benefits, but the estimates from the district’s last levy fell lower than what legislation granted.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Terri Patton said the levy equalization funds played a major role in this year’s cuts.

The state offers matching funds for levies, but the formula is based on estimated housing prices — the higher the housing prices, the lower the equalization.

The district’s equalization money dropped from $2 million in the 2005-06 school year, to $1.3 million this year.

A lot of the cuts and adjustments, Director of Business Services Marcia Wentzel said, come down to little things.

“The cuts come from all different areas,” she said, explaining that where the district may receive a little more in one area, it might lose some in another. “It’s an up and down thing.”

The continual cuts and adjustments — more than $5 million since 2003 — have not yet led to any personnel reductions, but Patton said the district has been running short of options.

Despite the cuts, the district will offer a few new programs funded through specific mechanisms such as Initiative 728.

Beginning in September, students will get a late start on Wednesdays, giving teachers collaboration time. The Ready! For Kindergarten Program, a series of classes for parents with kids from birth to 5 years old, also starts up this fall.

The Explorer Acadamy Virtual School also begins this fall, and the South Kitsap Boys and Girls Club began at the beginning of the summer.

The funds from Initiative 728, though welcome, tend to help maintain class size rather than reduce class size as it is intended.

A budget in the state-mandated format is available for public review immediately, and a district-published report — one much more reader-friendly — will be available sometime around the end of September.

The 2006-07 budget can be viewed at the district’s Web site, www.skitsap.wednet.edu

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