School district to unveil new budget Monday

The South Kitsap School District on Monday night will unveil its plan to fill a $1.6 million state funding gap after completing an annual budget process that at least one school official described as “very challenging.”

Though she’s been bracing for rough cuts for months, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Terri Patton said making up for the shortfall — which reaches $2.1 million when you count the state’s suspension of I-732 funds granting annual cost-of-living allowances for school workers — still proved daunting.

Relatively small cuts such as eliminating the high school’s driver’s ed program and tweaking the state levy plan to take advantage of low interest rates to finance new buses was not enough, Patton said. To finally close the gap the district had to dip into their reserves — to the tune of $500,000.

“By taking half a million, we still maintain a 3-percent reserve,” Patton said, explaining that the school board prefers to maintain the district reserves at around 2 to 5 percent of the budget. “Those funds are saved for a rainy day, and this is certainly a rainy day.”

Patton said the reserve fund helps keep the district’s cash flow to offset the sporadic times and amounts money may come in versus the steady rate it goes out for expenses such as payroll and bills.

Patton said the most visible result of this year’s budget shortfall will be the loss of the Traffic Safety Education program.

“Everything else will be fairly invisible, and far removed from the classrooms,” Patton said. “We didn’t cut staff, although a number of people won’t get much of a raise.”

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