School stimulus money for Bremerton and Central Kitsap schools only a 'Band-Aid'

The Bremerton and Central Kitsap school districts together expect more than $3 million in federal stimulus dollars starting next month, money officials say will help offset cuts to come next year.

The school districts are expected to lose more state money, including all I-728 dollars — a measure to reduce elementary classroom size — for the 2011-2012 school year. Bremerton Director of Finance and Operations Wayne Lindberg called the looming budget year a “cliff.”

Though the stimulus money, which will become available starting in November, is meant to help school districts retain teachers, librarians, principals and counselors, Central Kitsap Superintendent Greg Lynch called the extra money a “Band-Aid.”

Bremerton is set to receive more than $1 million from the federal government, due to an education jobs bill signed by President Barack Obama in August, and Central Kitsap will receive about $2.4 million. Allocations are based on each district’s full-time student enrollment.

The stimulus money won’t be enough to make up for the expected shortfalls in the next school year, officials from both districts said. Central Kitsap’s projected deficit is now estimated at $2.4 million, while Bremerton is looking at a $2.1 million budget gap.

Lynch, of Central Kitsap, said it is too soon to know how many jobs the stimulus money might ultimately save. Central Kitsap issued lay-off notices to 13 teachers last spring in an effort to make up for its $3 million deficit for the 2010-2011 school year, but was able to bring 12 of those teachers back to work. Lynch said he hopes the money will help the district avoid all or at least some lay-offs next year.

“It will help, but to what extent, we don’t know,” he said.

Lindberg said the stimulus dollars in Bremerton will help free up some money that can be used for things other than teacher salaries, but the district has yet to decide how to use that money.

The boost from the U.S. government brings little comfort to the districts, which are struggling to tread water after continuing cuts in the past few years. The Bremerton School District cut $155,537 for the current school year.

“Until the state lives up to their paramount duty to fund basic education, we will be in bad shape,” Lynch said. “There’s no other way to replace those state dollars other than the state.”

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