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Oak Harbor School District budget cuts may hurt less than feared

The Oak Harbor school board received a first glimpse on Monday, Oct. 11, at what their budget may look like as Gov. Christine Gregoire prepares to make education cuts statewide.

Although no actions will take place until April, the initial estimated loss for Oak Harbor in terms of state revenues is about $100,000, drawing mainly from K-3 staffing enhancement and levy state match.

The anticipated cut is about 50 percent less than Superintendent Rick Schulte was expecting to lose; nevertheless he’s still cautioning the board to proceed cautiously.

Since one of the areas receiving cuts is levy state match, Oak Harbor could lose just over twice as much per student than neighboring Coupeville and South Whidbey districts, which don’t qualify for the levy since the property values in those areas are much higher. On average, Oak Harbor is projected to lose $20 for every student, while Coupeville will lose $8.40 and South Whidbey $7.83.

“If this is an across the board cut, it ought to affect everybody equally and this is not affecting everybody equally. ... The ones that have the highest need are getting cut the most,” Schulte said. “The good news is the cut isn’t as big as I thought it would be; the bad news is it’s bigger than I think it should be.”

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the district should receive close to $1 million from the Education Jobs legislation for the 2010-2011 school year, although there isn’t a timeline in place yet for when that money will come in. This is good news for Oak Harbor as board members predicted the revenue would be closer to $800,000.

Education Jobs funds can only be used to hire or retain current staff members, with the exception of administrative positions. Schulte said the district will make every effort to retain that money for the 2011-2012 year when the district will lose $800,000 in stimulus money and will likely take hits in impact aid and K-3 staffing enhancement.

The Oak Harbor School District’s next board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25, at the Administrative Service Center.

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