Coupeville schools hone budget

Coupeville Schools Superintendent Bill Myhr presented a second school budget proposal at Monday’s school board meeting, one which is a slightly less painful worst-case scenario. This one pares $350,103 from the budget, instead of $364,791 as in the first proposal.

In response to input from parents, teachers and classified staff, Myhr made more cuts in some areas, less in others.

“I’m trying to get a collaborative consensus we can work with,” Myhr said, while stressing he is not happy with the cuts either.

“Even I don’t agree with all my recommendations,” he said.

Still, the board must cut approximately $350,000 to balance the $7.2 million 2003-2004 budget.

The most significant change was a decision to not eliminate one middle school or high school position by attrition. Leaving the position vacant would have saved the district $59,653, but likely would have increased class size. By shifting cuts elsewhere the district will be able to maintain grades 6 through 12 staffing, Myhr said.

In the area of classified staff Myhr suggested adding the Learning Partner Program coordinator to the list of staff not working on early release afternoons, reducing the coordinator’s work schedule by one-half day per week, and adding a paraprofessional position to staff the elementary school media center.

The first budget proposal called for $113,268 in classified staff cuts, while the second came in at $100,996.

Myhr proposed not reducing the school board expenses by 10 percent, which would have saved $1,750. He reasoned that with a potential bond election as well as a general board election coming up next shool year, it would be necessary to increase the board expenses, not reduce them. He did suggest reducing the superintendent and central office expenses by 10 percent, from $1,220 to $3,000.

The biggest changes dollarwise were proposed in instructional programs, but only one was an actual cut in funding.

While curriculum adoption was spared the axe in the first round, this time Myhr proposed cutting $15,000 from the area’s $60,000 budget. Absorbing the brunt of the cut would be secondary reading/language arts materials.

Breaking with meeting protocol, the board engaged in a dialogue with concerned parents during the budget discussion.

Kellen Diamanti expressed frustration that the board was not considering deeper cuts in cocurricular “extras.”

“Given the draconian measures you are considering in the area of academics, why not make more cuts in cocurricular?” she said.

Cocurricular, which includes sports and school-sponsored activities such as History Day, has been at the center of the budget cutting debate.

“Cocurricular has been the topic,” board member Don Sherman said. “We’ve batted around lots of ideas.”

Student fee

hikes possible

The most discussed idea is increasing student pay-to-participate fees. Myhr’s second budget version calls for increasing high school sports fees to $75 and middle school sports fees to $40. This is an increase from $4,000 to $10,665 in the second budget.

Myhr also included a plan to charge participants in cocurricular activities, which the school does not now do. Under the proposal high school students would pay $25 per year to participate in History Day, Drama, Jazz Band or HiQ. Middle school students would pay $15 per year for History Day, Drama or Jazz Band. This change would bring in approximately $2,725.

Changes in cocurricular programs totalled $27,782, compared to $15,440 in the first budget.

The board will continue to accept public comment, and hold a special meeting June 30 to finalize the budget cuts. Business manager Nancy Conard will then write up a draft of the budget to be presented at a meeting July 14. The board will vote on adopting the budget at the July 21 board meeting.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynews or call 675-6611

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