News

Levy giveth, state taketh away

Both a big gain and a big loss shaped the South Kitsap School District’s budget for the 2002-03 school year, which was unanimously approved by the school board Monday night.

“We thought we were really going to have a great year with the levy, but then we also had big reductions in state funding due to the recession,” said Terri Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent for business services.

Patton said the new budget includes a full year of funding from the Maintenance and Operations Levy — verses last year, when only a portion of the year was funded — which amounts to $13.5 million.

However, Patton said, the district also lost more than $500,000 in state funding.

“That made it difficult,” Patton said.

But the difficulties are nothing compared to two years ago, when the levy did not pass, Patton said.

“We had to cut the budget subtantially,” she said. “We had to cut services such as custodial, so the classrooms were not as clean as usual.”

For the coming year, Patton said, students and teachers will notice little increase in fees or reduction in services.

“The biggest change that will impact parents and students is (for drivers’ education),” Patton said. “They will have to pay a higher fee because the program has to be self-supporting.”

The school district raised fees and scaled back the program to make up for an elimination of state funding. Patton said last year the normal fees were $255, and $85 for low-income families. This year, she said, the fees will be $285, and $100 for low-income families.

Fees for all the other programs stayed the same, Patton said, or are even lower.

“Everything else is a benefit,” Patton said. “We reduced sports participation fees, and we were able to make up a lot of difference.”

Another big help this year was funds from Initiative 728, approved by the voters in 2000. Aimed at raising student achievement, the initiative provides schools money to reduce class sizes, train teachers and offer students extended learning opportunites such as after-school classes.

These funds will make up for state cuts, helping the district keep five elementary school teachers and a teacher training day.

But the uncertain future of I-728 funding, combined with declining enrollment, will make creating the budget for the 2003-04 school year just as challenging, if not more so.

“It’s the following year I’m worried about,” Patton said.

Patton said she expects the full brunt of the recession to hit for that budget. The current levy will run through 2005, but Patton said she would like to see a change in the yearly struggle to make ends meet. Patton said state funding for schools only covers around 60 percent of their actual costs, which is why they need a levy.

“We need more consistent support for the school district,” Patton said.

The 2002-03 budget reaches $89 million, up from $77 million for 2001-02, but cost per student expenditure stayed the same, hovering around $4,100.

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