July 4, 2009 in Washington Voices

West Valley reduces cost for variety of programs

District makes many small cuts to meet budget
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The budget cuts going into effect in the West Valley School District take a little money here and a little money there rather than making giant slashing cuts.

In May the district announced that 26 teachers in 18 full-time equivalent positions were being told that they might not have a job in the fall. Since then most of those people have been rehired. The district will wait until final enrollment numbers are compiled in August before offering contracts to the remaining teachers. “We literally have the schools contact every student,” said Deputy Superintendent Doug Matson. “We want to make sure we have the students before we hire teachers. We’ll probably hire most of them back.”

The community, district staff and administrators were given a list of $2.4 million in cuts and asked to vote on which programs should be reduced to meet the $1.2 million deficit caused by state budget cuts. Some ideas, like having all-day kindergarten every other day instead of half days, quickly fell by the wayside. “People didn’t like it,” Matson said. “That one didn’t get very many votes.”

A few of the cuts are simple. The district will power wash their buses instead of hand washing them to save $18,000. A security guard who resigned won’t be replaced, leaving one security guard and one school resource officer. The district will no longer send a bus to high schools in the East Valley and Central Valley districts to pick up choice students – a bus that only six students rode. In the current budget the $20,000 cost can’t be justified, Matson said.

There will no longer be after-school activity buses on Fridays. Middle school sports will also be cut to four days a week. Students will be asked to pay a $20-per-sport transportation fee. High school graduation ceremonies, which have been held at the INB Performing Arts Center downtown for years, will be held at the high school to save $10,000. The district will make two report cards per year available electronically to save $4,000 in mailing costs and administrators will lose a day’s pay.

“Some of these aren’t too painful,” Matson said.

Despite making every effort not to cut teachers, some positions are being lost. The elementary schools will lose a total of three FTE positions that were funded by I-728 money that is no longer in the state’s budget. Secretarial and other staff is also being trimmed. Most of those cuts will be covered by attrition, Matson said. “We had people that retired or resigned,” he said.

The district’s behavioral program and targeted all-day kindergarten program were cut and then promptly reinstated with federal stimulus money.

All the changes being made are needed to bring the district’s budget into balance but are not necessarily easy, Matson said. “It’s been a tough year,” he said. “I wish we could still do everything we used to do. It’s not like we wanted to do it. The worst thing we can do is get our district in financial trouble.”

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