School district looks to balance its books

The South Kitsap School District is a little closer to closing its $2.9 million deficit for the upcoming school year.

Terri Patton, assistant superintendent for business and support services, said at Wednesday’s school board meeting that the district won’t replace five full-time custodians who left the district after the last school year.

She said that will save the district $250,000.

Patton said the deficit stems from unforeseen circumstances when the district presented its last levy to voters in 2004.

She cited escalating teacher salaries and pension rates along with inflation as issues.

In addition to the money saved on custodians, Patton said the district will dip into its reserve fund for $1.72 million.

She said that’s not all bad because the district saved more than it anticipated in its last fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31.

Patton said they also will save through not filling other vacant positions in the district, and through cutting expenses on supplies.

The board unanimously adopted the budget.

Patton warned in previous meetings that the “hard decisions” likely won’t end there, as she expects shortfalls in the budget beyond the 2008-09 school year.

She said district officials will discuss staffing reductions with the union beginning next month.

In other school district developments:

• A pair of SK elementary schools, Orchard Heights and Sidney Glen, failed to meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s adequate yearly progress for students receiving special education and free or reduced-price lunch services.

As Title I schools that haven’t met that requirement, parents have the option to transfer their students to East Port Orchard or Hidden Creek.

In separate letters mailed to parents by Orchard Heights principal Mike Hickam and new Sidney Glen principal Jason Shdo, both said they were encouraged by the WASL scores. Shdo said the free and reduced-priced lunch group at his school missed the requirement by less than 1 percent. Hickam said students in third, fourth and fifth grades improved their WASL reading scores at his school.

• School board president Patty Henderson announced that the Public School Employee Collective Bargaining Agreement has been reached from 2008-11.

• South Kitsap High School’s Class of 1998 will hold its 10-year reunion Sept. 13. The reunion is open to all classmates, regardless of whether they graduated from the school. There will be a reunion party from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day at Desert Lounge on Bay Street. The event will feature a full bar, pool tables, door prizes and table games. The cost is $20.

There also is a family potluck barbecue at South Kitsap Community Park from noon to 2 p.m. Bring a lawn chair, food to share and $5 to cover costs. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be provided. There are games planned for children who attend.

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