South Kitsap School District looking at $6 million deficit

Terri Patton presented a revised budget forecast that was a little smaller than initially anticipated.

Just not as much as South Kitsap School District officials would like.

Patton, the district’s assistant superintendent for business and support, projected a $6 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 school year during Wednesday’s school board meeting.

She said that number still could shift depending on what cuts are made by the state Legislature.

The bulk of the projected deficit comes from Gov. Christine Gregoire’s budget presented in December. Patton said the budget would decrease funding for kindergarten through fourth-grade enhancement ($1.3 million), levy equalization ($1.65 million), Initiative 728 ($1.6 million), Learning Improvement Day ($156,000), gifted/highly capable ($90,000) and career and technical training in junior highs ($83,000). That equals $4,879,000 in potential revenue shortfalls. Both the enhancement and I-728 funds are targeted toward reducing class sizes.

Another $1 million is earmarked for facilities projects, pay increases for classified and administrative employees and other items.

Patton said the four-year levy, which passed last year, helps the situation. School districts receive the average of the property taxes they collect in 2009 and 2010 because both encompass the academic year. If SKSD receives 98 percent of that total, which Patton projects, it will equal $15,059,657.

She said $1.1 million of that total is committed toward closing the deficit, which reduces it “closer to the $6 million than we thought earlier.”

The district also must examine some items that were included in the levy budget. It earmarked $800,000 toward facility projects, but Patton said much of that work has been completed and the money spent. One of the major projects was replacing the roof on the east wing at Orchard Heights Elementary in July. SKSD facilities director Tom O’Brien estimated that project at $503,000 when it was finished.

Other levy items include security-video systems ($350,000), computer replacements ($600,000), curriculum adoption ($900,000) and inflation of salaries and benefits ($150,000).

“I would hope we are looking at preserving as many commitments we made to the community as we possibly can,” school board president Kathryn Simpson said.

Last year, SKSD had enough attrition that it was able to avoid laying off nurses, teachers and custodial staff. It also did not have reductions in arts, athletics and music.

But there are no promises this time.

“We’re just trying to stay afloat,” Patton said.

She said a budget taskforce that includes district officials and the teachers union meet Feb. 26 to look at a “straw design.” The union must be notified by May 15 regarding any reductions in force for the 2010-11 school year.

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