May 12, 2009 in City

Spokane Public Schools unveils draft budget

Job, program cuts among considerations
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Public forums

The community is invited to discuss the Spokane Public Schools proposed budget during two public forums:

•Tonight, 7 p.m., Chase Middle School, 4747 E. 37th Ave.

•Thursday, 7 p.m., Glover Middle School, 2404 W. Longfellow Ave.

Developmentally impaired students could be divided between two Spokane high schools, closer to their homes, rather than bused to a central location. Savings: $390,000.

Twelve teaching positions used to help at-risk high school and middle school students could be eliminated. Savings: $710,000.

If Spokane administrators give up two days of pay, it could save $100,000.

Those are among the proposed cuts in a working draft of the Spokane Public Schools’ budget. The document outlines how the administration plans to close an $8.8 million gap, including the previously announced potential elimination of dozens of teaching positions next year.

The plan will be presented at a community forum tonight and Thursday.

Questions remain over use of federal stimulus and levy equalization dollars, so the bottom line remains uncertain, officials said.

“It could wave $1 million either way,” said Mark Anderson, associate superintendent.

With more than 80 percent of the district’s budget going to personnel costs, Anderson said it’s challenging to find other cost savings. The district has budgeted $255.4 million of its $308.2 million budget for personnel.

“What we want people to understand is that Spokane is not suddenly having a problem,” Anderson said. The state cut $12 million in funding for teachers, and the district is having to make up that money, he said.

Pink slips will go out to dozens of teachers in the district today. However, officials maintain they plan to rehire all but about 40 of them. The estimated savings is $1.6 million.

Moving the developmentally impaired students from the Libby Center into Shadle and Ferris high schools saves money because it reduces some special education staff and lowers transportation costs, officials said.

Other possibilities include reducing caterings for staff events, limiting travel, reducing the number of district-paid cell phones (currently 195), reducing clerical, security and technical positions, delaying the painting of school buildings, eliminating leased office space and suspending a mentor teaching program.

Anderson said the district should be able to carry over about $2.1 million from this year’s budget. The reduction in gas prices and new, more energy-efficient buildings contributed to that savings.

What the district wants to hear from people at the forums, officials said, is what to save, if they can, and where to find other cost savings if more cuts are needed.


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