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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

E. Valley reduces its budget

After months of belt tightening the East Valley School District approved a budget Tuesday night that is about $1.3 million lighter.

“Because of increases, such as fuel costs and the increases in salaries and health care benefits, we needed to make some cuts,” said Christine Burgess, interim superintendent. “Luckily we did it without cutting staff, and without cutting significant programs.”

The school board unanimously adopted the budget of just over $37 million, with a reserve fund of $1.7 million.

Reductions varied, with cuts ranging from $100,000 out of the text book fund to $100,000 from the district’s technology fund, said Rich Cook, district financial manager.

“We spread it out pretty much across the board,” Cook said. Money was shaved from other funds, like cash for emergency maintenance.

“We cut that fund in half,” or about $100,000, Cook said.

The budgeted student enrollment was up slightly this year, with 4,069 students. Last year the district budgeted for 4,045, and ended with an enrollment count of 4,168. The district has seen a steady decline in enrollment for the past several years, due in part to layoffs at Kaiser Aluminum and families moving out of the area to look for work.

District revenues are also up slightly. General fund revenues total about $33.4 million, up from $31.7 million last year.

“It’s very misleading, however,” Cook said. “While the revenues are up, it’s a restricted up.”

Some of that money comes from increases in salary and medical benefits, as directed by the state, he said.

Of significant concern to the district is the rising cost of fuel, Cook said.

The district has set aside an additional $70,000 in reserve funds, or $1 more per gallon, than what was budgeted to pay for fuel for district transportation.

“We anticipate that (fuel costs) will continue to go up and need to be prepared,” Cook said.

About $3.1 million of the current budget is earmarked for the debt service fund, to pay back interest on loan and bond obligations, and another $126,000 is set aside for transportation vehicle fund, which will pay for three new buses this year. Additionally, $679,000 was budgeted for associated student body funds.

In other business, the school board announced they will hold a national search for a new superintendent.

Burgess, who came from the Lake Stevens (Wash.) School District, was selected as the interim superintendent this July, when Michael Jones left for a job in Michigan. She will serve until July 1, 2006.

The board will accept applications for the post until early November, and will make a decision by late November or early December.

The board agreed to begin the search immediately, so the new superintendent would be selected before new board members take their seats after the November general elections. Three board positions are up for re-election.