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School district dips into its 'rainy day' fund
The South Kitsap School Districts rainy day fund was put to good use this year as administrators closed a $1.6 million funding shortfall with a significant chunk of budget reserves in the 2003-04 operating budget approved by the school board Monday night.
Confronting both a loss of funds and a hike in costs, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Terri Patton said she was glad to have such healthy reserves at her disposal to cover nearly a third of the gap.
The good news is, we had some extra to get us through a rainy day, Patton said. Because this year is definitely a rainy day.
Patton said $500,000 was borrowed from the districts reserves, but the amount remaining is still within the 3 to 5 percent the board prefers to keep on hand to cover unstable cash flows and uncertainty in state funding.
A public hearing immediately followed Pattons presentation of the $88.6 million budget, and when there were no comments from the sparse audience, the school board passed the budget unanimously.
The significant losses in funding this year included a reduction of federal impact aid and local levy tax collection, along with the suspension of I-732, the 2000 measure granting annual cost-of-living allowances for school workers, and a reduction in I-728 funds.
State funding for both Traffic Safety Education and flexible education funds which the district uses to provide safety officers from the Port Orchard Police Department and the Kitsap County Sheriffs Department for its high school and junior highs was also eliminated.
Earlier this year the district decided to cut its drivers ed program for the 2003-04 year, but Patton said money was re-directed from other areas of the budget to keep the safety officers in the schools.
We will maintain exactly what weve had in the past, Patton said. Its a high priority as far as the parents are concerned, as well as the high school and the district as a whole. Its kind of one of those no-brainers.
Patton said now that the budget is complete, she will be watching attendance closely especially next year. She anticipated a nearly 1 percent decline in enrollment this year, but said kindergartners are declining more rapidly than any other age group, which may mean even lower enrollment in the future.