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South Kitsap School District officials grapple with budget

Teachers and finances.

Those are two paramount issues South Kitsap School District officials are grappling with after legislators approved an additional $1 billion in funding for kindergarten through 12th-grade education June 28.

Sandy Rotella, SKSD’s chief financial operations officer, said the district’s share of that money is $4.3 million, which is $200,000 less than the original estimate. She said more than $2 million is earmarked toward restoring a 1.9 percent pay reduction for kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and 3 percent salary cut for administrators in May 2011.

The remaining $2 million, Rotella said, will be dedicated toward funding an increase in the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) from a little more than 1.5 hours to about 2.4 hours per week, special education and transportation. She said the state funding for LAP and special education are restricted by the state.

That means those funds cannot be dedicated toward saving any of the 61 teaching positions that are slated for elimination during the upcoming school year. Fifty-seven teachers received layoff notices on May 15, but all except 16 have been called back because of resignations and retirements. New superintendent Michelle Reid said she is working toward a plan to restore those positions Tuesday, and is meeting with community “stakeholders” about where any discretionary revenue is allocated.

Among those are the South Kitsap Education Association. New SKEA president John Richardson, who succeeded Judy Arbogast earlier this month, said he remains in discussion with Reid and others about the teachers’ contract, which runs through August, and other issues, such as class sizes, which are expected to increase throughout the district.

“I know that the teachers in South Kitsap are very concerned about larger class sizes and the affect on students,” he said. “We will do everything we can to protect our students from the effects of those larger class sizes.”

Reid said she is concerned with growing classroom sizes and is analyzing data to determine where additional support might be necessary. SKSD, which retains Greene Gasaway Architects of Federal Way to project future attendance, had 9,212.31 full-time equivalent (FTE) students, including Running Start participants, during the 2012-13 school year. Rotella told the Independent in June that the district is preparing for a 2.5 percent enrollment decline for the upcoming school year.

“We’re just trying to be really responsible with our finances and do our very best to support the ‘Whole Child,’ ” Reid said. “We just want to make sure we have the right teachers in the right classrooms in the right schools to follow enrollment patterns.”

Staffing is not the only issue SKSD officials are trying to sort out. Last week, Rotella released the district’s preliminary budget, which showed $95.8 million in revenue from federal, local and state sources. But its estimated expenditures at $96.6 million, which would require SKSD again to cover its deficit with reserves.

“We don’t have any reserves to utilize,” Rotella said. “We not only need to eliminate reserves being used, but we need to increase reserves to the 3 percent threshold.”

The latter refers to the school board’s directive to maintain its reserve fund at that level. SKSD was among several school districts cited in a March report by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for being in poor financial health. The district ended the 2011-12 school year with a $5.72 million fund balance. That number is projected to decrease to $4.4 million when school begins in September. Rotella said a “budget is currently being prepared” that does not dip into the reserve fund again this year.

• SKSD lost a pair of administrators in June when Thomas Mosby, director of career and technical education since 2005, left to run Highline School District’s Puget Sound Skills Center. Olalla Elementary School principal Kristi Rivera also left after two years to return to Purdy Elementary School. Rivera, who will be Purdy’s principal, was an assistant principal there before coming to Olalla.

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