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Schools’ Budget Shrinks Without Layoffs

Algebra students pick up textbooks in the Thurston library.

Despite a 3 percent drop in revenue mostly due to decreased funding from the state, school administrators on Tuesday proposed a $40.9 million budget for the next school year that does not require any teacher layoffs.

For now, nor have steps been taken to increase class sizes and the district will continue to fund the K-3 class size reduction program.

To make up for the shortfall, administrators have proposed spending cuts in a number of areas, none of them involving educational programs, said Asst. Supt. of Business Services Norma Shelton and director of fiscal services Dean West, who outlined a preliminary budget to the school board Tuesday night.

Fortunately, the district’s share of revenue from local property taxes, which accounts for about 88.9 percent of the district’s total revenue, is projected to increase slightly in the coming year to $36.3 million, compared to $36.1 million a year earlier.

Overall, the district estimates receiving $1.3 million less in revenue for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but has reduced budget expenditures by $4.2 million through a combination of measures, West said. The previous year’s budget was $45.2 million.

According to West, about $3 million of this reduction came from one-time spending on certain items that occurred last year, while the rest of the reduction has come from budget cuts in areas such as material and supplies, contracted services, operating expenses, and capital outlay, among others.

For the most part, cuts will mean smaller budgets for expenses in various departments, as opposed to cutting out existing programs. For example, travel and conference expenses shrink to $107,967 for the coming school year from $144,171 last year; the budget for repairs and other services is $574,869, compared to $598,441 last year; and the amount budgeted for extra duty teachers dropped to $429,753 from $455,155.

Among the items targeted for cuts are the school improvement program; an amount of $10 per student taken from the general allocation fund; and the facilities maintenance program, which is limited to health and safety repairs for the time being.

Though the state legislature sent an on-time budget to Gov. Brown on Wednesday, West cautioned that even if the governor signs it, which is not certain, state legislators may still make changes that will affect district finances.

School officials recently signed tentative pacts with teacher and non-credentialed employee unions, extending existing contracts. The agreements call for a one-time contribution of $227,709 for increased health and welfare benefits for teachers and a similar one-time contribution of $115,756 for non-credentialed workers, whose early retirement benefits were extended until June 30, 2012.

Non-credentialed employees approved their tentative agreement last Friday, said Margaret Warder, president of the their union. “We are very fortunate that our boards of directors, current and past, have done an excellent job of fiscally managing our school district,” she said.

Shelton reminded board members that though they must adopt a budget “without knowing what the state will do,” they will have the ability to revise it as needs arise.

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