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School district set to adopt $40 budget

The Oak Harbor School District Board of Directors is set to adopt an approximately $40 million budget for the 2002-2003 school year at a board meeting Monday night.

But, Rick Schulte, superintendent of schools, is already alerting the board that the budget will most likely need to be adjusted, through a procedure known as a budget extension, sometime during the coming school year.

“As I have mentioned previously, we still have uncertainties caused by fluctuations in Impact Aid revenues, changing enrollment, and incomplete negotiations with OHEA,” Schulte writes in his brief to the board. “Any of these could be a reason for a budget extension later in the year.”

Oak Harbor School District officials are currently in contract negotiations with Oak Harbor Education Association,which is the teachers union. The outcome will decide the amount of pay and benefits increases for teachers.

Impact Aid is federal money the district receives to help compensate it for the decreased property tax base because of a large amount of federal land within the district. It is paid based on the number of students enrolled in the district with a parent that works on federal property. Impact Aid payments are notoriously delayed in Washington, DC.

Schulte reported recently that the district finally received an Impact Aid payment from the 1999 - 2000 school year. The unexpected receipt of an Impact Aid payment would result in the need for a budget extension.

Student enrollment for the coming school year is projected at 5,819 students. State funding is paid per student, so a higher or lower enrollment can significantly affect revenue.

While the proposed budget projects revenues from all sources to total $40,297,620, expenditures are estimated at $40,364,659. This would require the district to dip into the fund balance to cover this year’s bills, to the extent of about $67,000.

With the beginning general fund balance already dangerously low, Schulte said that everyone in the district will need to work hard to save money. With the proposed budget, the ending fund balance next summer would be just approximately $685,000. A safe level is $2 million.

An adopted budget is the absolute maximum the district is allowed to spend in all individual categories. Typically, the district spends only about 98-percent of budget.

“Two percent of forty million dollars is eight hundred thousand dollars,” Schulte said Friday, demonstrating how the district can add to the ending fund balance with careful spending throughout the year.

“If each budget manager leaves a hundred dollars in an account here and there, it adds up,” Schulte said.

In the proposed budget, Oak Harbor school will get more than 76-percent of its revenues from state funding, nearly 17-percent from federal funding, and about seven percent from local sources. About three percent of the total budget comes from local taxes.

Although Schulte says the district had to prepare a tight budget, the board agreed at last Monday night’s meeting that it ids an acceptable budget.

Programs such as class-size reduction are still in place, even with the conservative approach to budgeting.

“We were true to our stated goals of keeping our class size low,” said Kathy Jones, board president.

Additionally, reports at a July board meeting that the district was cutting an elementary school art teacher turned out to be untrue. Elementary art will continue without any loss of programs or student project opportunities.

Monday’s meeting comes just one week after the first board meeting for the month of August. Ordinarily, the second meeting for this month would not have occurred until Aug. 26, but vacation schedules of involved individuals will interfere during that week.

Every school district in the state is required to adopt a budget by an Aug. 31 deadline. Additionally, each board must hold a public budget hearing prior to adopting a budget. Monday’s meeting will include a budget hearing, at which time community members may address the board with budget questions and concerns.

The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district’s Administrative Service Center at 350 S. Oak Harbor St.

Contact Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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