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District preparing for budget woes

The final state budget is nowhere near completion, but Superintendent Tom Lockyer took a few moments at a recent meeting to give the White River School Board a glimpse at what to expect.

“I believe we’re not going to feel things like we did two or three years ago,” Lockyer said.

“You don’t cut $1.2 million without some kind of impact.”

In the initial round from the state, Lockyer is anticipating a loss of $225,000 to hit the current budget and believes that number may grow to $550,000. The good news, if there is any, is the district will be able to absorb those losses.

He also anticipates another $700,000 loss for the 2011-12 school year.

He’s more worried about the second year of the biennium.

“This has been the state of affairs for the past four years,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer said the district is in a better financial position than nearly three years ago, when the district trimmed approximately $3 million from its budget and was on the state’s watch list for having little to no financial reserves. That $3 million came hot on the heals of a $1.2 million cut the year before and was followed by another $1.2 million the year after.

The district has also seen three years of falling enrollment.

“Anything that’s going to happen will jeopardize the position we’ve worked so hard to get to,” Lockyer said.

White River has built back its reserve find. The state encourages districts to maintain a 5 to 7 percent reserve to cover payroll.

The reductions have caused many districts to scale back their professional learning opportunities, but Lockyer noted White River has been fortunate. As a leader in the area, the district has been able to fund its own staff development by hosting educators from other districts through workshops and site visits.

“Part of the reason people come to visit White River is due to the incredible commitment of our staff to the collaboration model and their commitment to our students,” Lockyer said.

Enumclaw, and other districts in the area, are also preparing for the worst, anticipating similar losses.

Lockyer said the district will have a better sense of the situation in March.

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