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Perfecting budget is no easy task for school districts
The budget is looking a bit better this year for local school districts, but it still isn’t what either district would call ideal.
Last Wednesday, Central Kitsap School District (CKSD) board members met to discuss various district matters, including the final 2013-2014 budget. The Bremerton School District met last Thursday to adopt their final budget.
“When we started looking at this budget, the hope was that we would have minimal reductions,” said David McVicker, assistant superintendent for business and operations. “That the enrollment or the state dollars would allow us to not have to do what we have done for the last seven years in a row now which is cut programs and people and edges and all those things.”
“It’s my first black (number),” said McVicker of the $68,111 balance. Although relatively excited about the prospect of not going into major debt for the upcoming school year, McVicker added, “It’s not very big.”
All board members were present for the meeting, including the new superintendent, Hazel Bauman to take a look ahead at the next year’s budget.
With issues like struggling enrollment numbers and federal government money not always coming through, the district is taking cautious steps to how money is spent, McVicker said. When Bauman mentioned the idea of working hard to secure K-2, K-5 and even possibly a K-6 reading curriculum, she knew that getting extra money for reading programs likely wouldn’t and couldn’t happen until the following year.
“I really want to urge the board to consider K-5 and if not even K-6 in a reading curriculum,” she said. “My preliminary assessment of the resources that we have for this area is that it’s a need and that we put this into next year’s budget … I’d love to do it this year, but I just don’t think we can.”
Bauman estimated the cost of implementing a reading curriculum would cost between $500,000 to $1 million.
Funding increases impacted several areas of the new budget, allowing the district to focus on increasing transportation, materials, supplies and operating costs, full-day kindergarten for Woodlands and class size support for K-1 at Woodlands, Jackson Park and Clear Creek Elementary Schools. Additional impacts on the $115.6 million budget include an increase in retirement costs by 2.34 percent, declining enrollment and federal sequestration reductions.
However, savings by making recommended budget adjustments such as position reductions and energy conservations will save the district nearly $380,000 for the 2013-2014 school year.
The final budget will be adopted on Aug. 28.
Although last year was worse financially for the Bremerton School District, this year isn’t fantastic by any stretch of the imagination.
“Last year was worse. We’re a little better because we got some money from the state,” said Wayne Lindberg, director of finance and operations. “It’s still not what I’d consider a great budget, but it is what it is.”
Revenue for the 2013-2014 is expected to be right around $58.3 million with carryover and reserves. Expenditures will be hitting right around $56.4 million. The balance will be about $1.9 million, above the standard board policy of maintaining a 3 percent reserve Lindberg said.
“We’re eating into our reserves a little bit,” he said. Compared to last year, the district had a difference of $131,125, which was the lowest it has been since 2010.
Impacts on the new budget include sequestration reductions, pension fund increases, declining enrollment, among other issues. Despite issues out of the district’s control--like enrollment numbers--board member Scott Rahm praised Lindberg for his efforts on working at the budget.
“I think you’ve been doing a good job controlling it from a budget standpoint,” Rahm told Lindberg.
Board President Carolynn Perkins also agreed, but she said that the budget must be balanced by next year in order to avoid fiscal problems.
“We really have to start watching what the state does in January, February and March,” she said.
“We have very little reserves to work with next year,” Lindberg agreed. “There’s still a lot of ‘ifs’ out there when you’re dealing with this kind of budget.”
Each board member took part in roll call to approve the budget. When it came to board member David Rubie, he heaved a huge sigh before agreeing with his board members by saying, ‘aye.’
“I wasn’t really sure how I was going to vote when I came tonight,” he said after the meeting. “I was really torn.”