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School district squeezes under budget

She called it the most challenging budget of her 25-year career.

But South Kitsap assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton told the district's board of directors Wednesday evening that the projected $6.8 million deficit the district faces for the upcoming school year can be made up.

Patton originally projected the district would face a $3 million to $5 million deficit in 2009-10, but that changed when the Legislature crafted its budget.

One significant cut was I-728, the class-size initiative, which was approved by voters in 2000. Many districts eliminated the program, but Patton said SKSD will maintain it for the upcoming year even though it won't receive $3.3 million in funding from the state. The state still will pay 25 percent of it through money received from a federal stimulus package.

Patton said district officials elected to keep the program in addition to not laying off teachers because "we wanted to stay as far away from (cutting funding for) classrooms and kids as possible."

The district also lost a combined $282,000 in transportation funding and a math-science grant. That helped turn a $306,000 balance in the student achievement budget last year to a $2.828 million projected deficit for 2009-10.

Patton came to the total deficit through three categories: 2008-09 budget deficit ($1.8 million), funding shortfall ($3.582 million) and other losses and cost increases ($1.4 million).

She said the district will be able to repay the deficit from last year because she expects the unreserved fund balance to reach 4 percent by Nov. 1. Patton initially anticipated a 2.5 percent savings and credited that to "sacrifices and belt tightening" throughout the district.

Patton said the district also benefited from a $1.3 million stimulus package to fund special education. She said the district now can take the money it used to pay for that program to help balance the budget.

In addition, Patton said there will be cuts throughout the district ranging from administrative to transportation budgets. She said further reductions were necessary because the district projects to have 9,665 full-time equivalent students this year. That's 94 less than in 2008-09, and the district receives approximately $5,200 for each full-time equivalent.

Perhaps the hardest-hit area were capital facilities projects. Patton said several of those, with the exception of re-roofing the east wing at Orchard Heights Elementary School, have been postponed.

"I think you have to recognize there were some huge sacrifices made," she said. "This isn't a bunch of fluff."

Board member Kathryn Simpson said she doesn't want those projects ignored if the district's finances are better than projected.

"We're not doing some projects that we really should to preserve the budget," she said. "I want to make sure we have those things front and ready to do."

There will be a public hearing and budget adoption meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at the district office.

• Nancy Pack has been named principal at Orchard Heights Elementary School. Pack, who previously held that position at Franklin Elementary School in Port Angeles, replaces Mike Hickam.

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