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Central Kitsap School District budget picture rosier than expected

"After months of gloomy predictions and legislative lallygaging, the Central Kitsap School District's proposed 2001-02 budget finally has been released. The news is surprisingly good.The major thing that was threatened to be reduced was staffing of Better Schools - because that was left in place, we came out $700,000 better than expected, said Gary Powell, assistant superintendent for business and operations.The Better Schools money, allocated by the Legislaure for staff development, didn't disappear as predicted. It was shifted to another area of the budget, but will be used for the same purpose.Overall, the Central Kitsap School District took in $2.5 million more in state money and $800,000 more federal heavy impact funds than last year. But there are big decisions looming on the horizon. The district is headed into a levy year and the school board must determine the date and amount of the levy, as well as the levy period, in the coming months. The stakes are high, as CKSD has $23.5 million tied up in the levy - $10 million in actual levy funds and $13 million in state matching funds, according to Powell. In addition, co-curricular programs are funded exclusively by the levy.If we don't have a levy in place, we don't get heavy impact dollars. Period, Powell said. That is one of three requirements. To receive heavy impact funds, districts also must show that at least 50 percent of their students are dependants of active-duty or civilian military employees, and that the district spends less money than the state average. Only 22 districts nationwide meet those requirements, Powell said.Under the the district's current maintenance and operations, property owner pay $2.80 per $1,000 of assessed value; the bond repayment levy for capital projects costs $2.49 per $1,000 of value. The district's budget team also had to deal with implementation of two education initiatives passed by Washington voters in 2000 and declining enrollment. I-728, the student achievement initiative, required the state to spend money to reduce class sizes, create extended learning programs, fund teacher training and early childhood education programs, and improve school buildings. I-732 requires annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) for teachers. For 2001, that increase is 3.7 percent. The state did not fund the COLA for employees paid by local levies, the federal government, or grants, but CKSD will absorb the cost and give the raise across the board.(The COLA) is the one thing we haven't reconciled, Powell said. But it will cost close to $300,000, plus or minus.School enrollment is projected to drop for the third year in a row, and the budget committee recommended that five teaching positions be cut through attrition. The effects of declining enrollment will be offset somewhat by I-728, Powell said.The district's 2001-02 budget will be adopted by the school board at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, at the Jenne-Wright administration building. "

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