Coupeville school layoffs avoided

Student fees hiked, staff hours cut

Like many other school districts in the state, Coupeville has to make cutbacks to resolve a budgetary shortfall.

Officials are looking to slash approximately $395,000 from the school district’s $10 million budget next year.

Superintendent Patty Page said the school district set several priorities before making cuts this year: retaining staff, keeping class size stable, trying to retain all student programs, and trying not to gut any of those programs.

“If we eliminated anything, it would be really hard to bring them back,” Page said during Monday’s Coupeville School Board meeting.

She rattled off the list of reductions needed to balance the school district’s budget.

Those cuts include eliminating two teaching positions, which was done through attrition rather than layoffs, and eliminating hours of support staff work.

Officials also reduced the curriculum adoption budget and the technology budget. New employees will have to pay for fingerprint checks.

In addition to making cuts, the school district is raising its student participation fees for athletics and other activities. The school board is removing the $100 family cap to the fee and instituting a $10 fee to participate in board-approved activities such as spelling bees, geography bees and the science club.

The school district is also changing the way it doles out the fees. It will go to the school building and then be dispersed to the various activities.

With the reduction to the money budgeted for technology, and a lengthy list of building needs in the school district, the school board discussed the possibility of going to the voters for additional bond or levy dollars.

Page said the school district has to be careful because she doesn’t want to risk the current maintenance and operations levy, which comes up for renewal in 2010.

“We can’t afford to have our regular maintenance and operations levy fail,” Page said. That levy comprises 24 percent of the school district’s revenue.

School board member David Sherman said a technology levy should be done quickly and kept separate from the maintenance and operation election.

The school district is having budget problems because of cost increases, mandated cost of living salary increases and increases to the district’s state retirement contribution, and hikes in utilities rates.

School board member Carol Bishop said the rising electricity costs alone could pay for two teachers.

Other districts are facing similar problems. For example, the Oak Harbor School District is currently cutting $2 million from its budget.

“It’s a hard time and a very sad spot for school district’s to be in,” Page said.

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