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Washington Voices

Parents weigh in on school budget

Thu., April 1, 2010

District hands out list of 28 options for shortfall

The Central Valley School District is mulling options for cuts to help make up a possible shortfall in state funds in the 2010-’11 school year.

To help the school board decide what to cut, the district recently held three community workshops to prioritize 28 options into categories — minor impact on students, moderate impact, major impact and critical impact. The options list represents approximately $3.7 million in programs.

During the third workshop last week, Superintendent Ben Small told the audience of about 60 people that no testimony would be taken about the listed programs, but that the district would consider how the community categorizes each option’s impact level. “It was hard for us to come up with this list,” Small said. He added that some programs weren’t included because of contractual obligations or because they are considered “revenue neutral,” meaning that cutting them wouldn’t save the district money.

Small said one cut that will be made for certain stems from the expected loss of $1.56 million the district received in the 2009-’10 school year through Initiative 728. Approved by voters in 2000, the initiative pays for 20.3 full-time employees who work in classrooms as academic support staff and coaches in math and language arts.

The school board decided during its meeting March 8 to not try to find other ways to fund the program without the state funding.

“The board believes we have to make that reduction,” Small said at the workshop.

Jan Hutton, director of finance, said about 68 percent of the district’s funding comes from the state.

Each attendee at the workshop was given a list of the 28 options, which include eliminating classes that the district offers before the regular school day begins, instituting pay-to-play extracurricular activities and laying off staff. Representatives from the district’s budget leadership team described the programs and answered questions.

Prioritizing programs isn’t just a hard decision for the school board to make; it also was hard for the parents to make those decisions. Some of the attendees last week said they had been discussing the list with their families and brainstorming ideas to find outside funding for programs, such as the middle school debate tournament.

Attendees submitted their responses in writing and were handed remote keypads to enter their responses electronically about how they would categorize each option. The responses were taken back to the district to be counted.

Small said the next step is for the budget leadership team to make recommendations to the school board during the April 12 board meeting based on the input received. The board is scheduled to make its final decision during the meeting on April 26.

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