Coupeville schools must cut spending

The Coupeville School District is looking to slash between $350,000 and $400,000 from its estimated $10 million budget next year.

During Monday evening’s school board meeting, Superintendent Patty Page cited several different reasons that caused the shortfall. The school district has seen expenses rise through cost of living adjustments for staff and increased contributions to the state retirement program.

Utilities are another problem area. The school district budgeted to spend $230,000 on utilities, however that amount will top $300,000.

The increase stems from a utility rate hike and providing power for the new Coupeville High School, which has new systems with more capacity.

Maintenance staff is monitoring energy consumption in the school district. Maintenance Supervisor Gary Smart pointed out electricity use at the elementary school was down from the same time last year.

Staff is also saving money by reducing the time the buildings are heated, which one board member noted when she attended an event at the Performing Arts Center recently.

“It felt like an arctic blast coming down the hallway,” board member Cindy Van Dyk said during the meeting.

Another area school officials are watching closely is the education program at the county’s Juvenile Detention Center. The Coupeville School District contracts with the Education Service District in Anacortes for an education program at the center. Page said the school district will try to change the arrangement next year so the program can be run on a more revenue-neutral basis.

School Board President Kathleen Anderson said that other school districts are in the same budget situation and all would like to see the Legislature provide more funding for schools.

“We’re all in the same pinch. Everybody has spent their reserve balances,” Anderson said.

The Oak Harbor School District is dealing with a $1.8 million shortfall in its budget for the 2008-2009 school year.

The Coupeville School District is budgeting for similar enrollment numbers next year. However, that is because there are more students attending the homeschool-based Cedar Program, which is offsetting enrollment drops at the traditional schools.

After the meeting, Page said she isn’t sure whether there will be any staff layoffs. She said any cuts in the number of teachers will be accomplished through attrition as some are planning to retire. There are also a number of classified support staff who are planning to leave the school district or are working on a one-year contract.

She hopes those job losses will prevent any layoffs to balance the 2008-2009 school year budget.

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