January 24, 2008 in City

Schools hope to stave off cuts

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Early budget forecasts show Spokane Public Schools may be looking to fill a gap of more than $2 million next school year.

But the district is hoping to stave off any drastic changes to staff or programs.

“This is a fine tuning year. … It’s about maintaining tough decisions we already made,” said Mark Anderson, associate superintendent for school support services.

Last year Spokane announced more than $10 million would need to be trimmed from a $293 million general fund. That meant layoffs, getting rid of some extracurricular activities and programs, and even closing a school.

In a presentation at the regular meeting of the board of directors Wednesday night, members were given a preliminary plan for addressing the budget needs for next year. The figures may change based on various proposals being pushed through the Legislature this session.

“This presentation is an early picture of the effect of the governor’s budget,” said Neil Sullivan, executive director of finance.

The governor’s budget includes $39 million in additional money for schools. Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson had asked for $255 million.

“We’ve heard there’s no new money for education,” Anderson said.

Based on the governor’s proposed budget, Spokane’s revenue could increase by $10.5 million, but forecasts show expenditures may be $12.8 million higher, school officials said.

The district expects to be down another 400 students, which means the loss of $1.9 million in state funding. This fall 600 fewer students walked through the doors – 300 more than the district budgeted. The district has lost nearly 2,500 students since 2000.

Districts are funded by the state based on the number of full-time equivalent students attending its schools. Voters also pass levies to support programs at local schools not funded by the state.

About $900,000 in staff reductions could be made, although it’s likely those jobs could be left unfilled through attrition, Anderson said.

Additional projected changes to the 2009 budget could include:

•$9.3 million in additional funding for cost-of-living and benefit increases for employees. Those same benefits will cost the district $10.6 million.

•$1.4 million for full-day kindergarten to be implemented in at least eight more Spokane schools. Five schools were funded this year.

•Transportation costs including fuel, and utilities may rise by $1.4 million.

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