News

White River board OK’s lean budget

District makes $3 million in

reductions

What started months ago came to a conclusion Thursday night as the White River School Board placed its stamp of approval on the district’s $38.3 million 2009-10 budget.

The nod doesn’t mean the district’s work is complete. Officials will continue to examine cost-cutting methods, while trying to keep a strong educational system for students.

This year’s budget process was agonizing for White River and districts across Washington as state officials trimmed millions from their budgets.

White River was forced to make nearly $3 million in reductions that included closing two campuses. The 2009-10 budget will include 29 fewer certificated staff members and 15 fewer classified employees. Even with the trimming, salaries, benefits and payroll taxes make up more than 77 percent of the district’s budget.

About 63 percent of expenditures are linked directly to the classroom with another 8 percent to classroom support. Another 20 percent is in building support which includes transportation, utilities, maintenance, food services, data processing and the like. The final 8 percent covers the central administration.

The district also expects to start school in September with 109 fewer students, which also equates to a loss in state funding. Since the 2006-07 school year the district is down 228 students. The 2009-10 budget is based on 4,035 students, 100 of whom will participate in Running Start with another 556 special needs and 429 involved in vocational education.

Approximately 55 percent of the district’s budget comes from the state with another 11 percent of state funding earmarked for transportation, special education, bilingual and learning assistance programs. Nearly 18 percent of its revenue comes from the local maintenance and operation levy, which will go before voters again in February. Federal funds make up roughly 11 percent. Approximately 5 percent comes from tuition and fees from other school districts or agencies.

When the state cut back, it hurt districts everywhere.

The budget does include approximately $2.1 million in federal stimulus funds, but those have strings and stipulations attached.

There was good news, as district Business Manager Mona Moan read a letter from Steve Nielsen of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, the organization that’s been closely monitoring White River’s budget since it ran into trouble a couple of years ago. White River is being asked to bring its reserves up to 5 percent of its total budget, a feat longtime board members like Susan McGuire can’t remember ever being the case.

The letter from Nielsen commended the district for its progress thus far – it’s positive fund balance and its work to build toward the 5 percent.

“The letter notes what we’re doing right,” Board President Denise Vogel said. “But we still have work to do.”

Moan said it would likely be two more years before the district would see that goal.

“But we’re on track with the state,” noted Superintendent Tom Lockyer, who applauded everyone in the district for their budget work. “We’ve done a good job as a team.”

The board’s budget approval also includes the district’s Associated Student Body fund, capital projects fund, transportation vehicle fund and debt services fund.

In other business, the board:

• announced mandatory certificated staff days will be Monday, Tuesday and Aug. 26.

• reminded parents and students school begins Sept. 1.

• noted there will be no school Sept. 7 in observance of Labor Day.

• announced its next regular meeting will be Sept. 9 and its next special meeting Sept. 23, both at 6 p.m. in the district conference room.

• approved an Internet-based world studies curriculum for the high school.

• accepted Glacier Middle School teacher Sue Root’s resignation.

• hired instructional paraeducators Teresa LaPlant, Leslie Noborikawa, Julie Stroh and Patricia Thweatt; social worker Jennifer Cochrane-Nicholls; and White River High School teachers Nicholas Cochran and Kaycee Barber.

• was updated by Hugh Flint, director of student support services, on changes in the district’s English Language Learners program. The district’s current program includes 35 students, mostly Spanish speaking, which has steadily grown since 2002-03. Students who a language other than English at home qualify for the program, which is a basic education responsibility that does receive state funding.

Flint said the challenge for White River’s program is the students are spread across various grade levels. With that in mind, he is working on a way to streamline the program to provide better services to all ELL students.

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