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‘Perfect storm’ means layoffs in Coupeville
Despite their commitment to frugality while preparing budgets in recent years, the Coupeville School Board members will likely be forced to make some cuts to district staff this year.
As the budget proposals came out of the state Senate and House of Representatives this month, Superintendent Patty Page said she feels that the district is about to be struck by “the perfect storm.”
In addition to its own revenue shortfall through an enrollment decrease of about 30 full-time students and the loss of federal stimulus money next year, it appears the district will lose its K-5 Enhancement funding, money from I-728 and I-732, which support pay increases and smaller class sizes, and some funding for its homeschool programs.
The district faces a budget gap estimated at more than $1.3 million, and if the Senate’s budget proposal is adopted, the district could face another $238,000 cut.
The Senate’s budget proposes a 3-percent cut across the board to staff salaries, which adds up to $238,000 for Coupeville. However, the senators have stated that districts aren’t required to make the cut to salaries, they’re just required to make a cut equal to that 3-percent amount.
Page said she’s heard some people suggest that districts make up for the loss by taking furlough days, but for Coupeville, that would mean shortening the school year by 10 days.
“It’s one option, but again, it’s something that they’re leaving to every district to decide,” Page said. “It’s going to create inequities ... It’s a travesty. It’s not something I believe is okay.”
The House’s proposal, which Page believes is more favorable for the district, does not require the 3-percent cut, but does include freezing the salary schedule for certified staff.
Page and business manager Ben Thomas have been busy crunching numbers and reviewing all aspects of the district’s operations looking for ways to reduce expenses. But she reported that no matter which scenarios they evaluated, the need to reduce programs and staff was inevitable.
Page said the deadline to give certified staff reduction-in-force notices is May 15 and that the district will try to give classified staff information about their positions by June.
“We will do our best to let them know what building they’re in, what they’re teaching and what their assignment is, but it will be a work in progress throughout the summer,” Page said.
Page said district officials will be looking at tightening their belts in as many non-staff areas as possible to reduce the shortfall like electricity and transportation costs. She said they’re also considering all day, every other day kindergarten, increasing facility-use fees and charging for field trips among other things to save and make money.
Page said they’re trying to remain true to the district’s philosophy of putting educational programs and students first, but with the news from the Legislature and the uncertainly of which budget proposals will pass, the outcome is looking “painful at best.”
“I’ve been doing this 11 years, and this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen things go in the state,” Thomas added. “We’re in a holding pattern.”
Meanwhile, the 2011 session of the Legislature is scheduled to end Sunday, but a special session is widely predicted to allow representatives more time to grapple with funding issues.