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School budget funds new nurse position

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The Oak Harbor School Board passed the district’s $43 million budget Monday evening. With its approval comes some additional employees working for the school district.

The school district hired a nurse to augment the other two that are serving the 5,400 students.

“There’s a huge need for nurses in this district,” said Joe Hunt, spokesman for the school district. “The two nurses are spread very thin.”

The new nurse will start this week, and comes several weeks after Superintendent Rick Schulte said the district couldn’t undertake any new expenses unless something was cut or more money was found.

In a Tuesday morning interview, Schulte said that the nurse position was incorporated into the school budget last spring when the position was advertised.

He said officials found the money when the allocation from I-728 funding was higher than expected.

The new nurse isn’t the only new position in the school district this year.

The school district will hire an attendance employee to deal with students with chronic attendance problems.

State law requires the district to file a petition with juvenile courts for every student that has severe attendance problems. The state also provides funding to process the petitions. Schulte said that money will pay for the new position.

Although he didn’t have a current number readily available, he said the school district received $30,000 in a recent year.

The school district also lost two security officers when they retired this year. Schulte said those positions haven’t been replaced. Instead that money could go to hire a lead grounds person. That decision hasn’t been made yet, and the school district and the PSE union are still sorting out the details for the new position.

While the 2005-2006 budget provides for some new employees, officials are concerned about future years.

The new budget shows a $1.129 million fund balance, which is short of the school district’s goal of a fund balance between 3 percent and 5 percent.

Schulte said there are $300,000 in contingency expenditures that would be cut if the school district doesn’t have the revenue. Items on the list include replacement furniture and supplies for schools.

Even though the school board approved a budget Monday evening, officials won’t know enrollment counts until after the first week of school. The school district’s funding from the state is based on enrollment.

Schulte said that enrollment can change depending on how many students are in base housing and how many students move into the district when VQ 2 personnel from Rota, Spain move to the Navy base.

During the meeting Schulte pointed out that the budget maintains services from the previous year.

“I think this is a good budget because we can continue all the programs from last year,” Schulte said.

He highlighted several points of the new budget. The Oak Harbor School District spends $7,866 per student and its basic education allocation from the state is $4,423.

Salaries and benefits comprise nearly 83 percent of the school district’s general fund budget. Nearly 72 percent of the general fund budget goes toward teaching and teaching support. Schulte said that is nearly three percentage points higher than the state average.

The school district received a 2.9 percent increase to pay for non-employee-related costs, however, he said the state hasn’t been keeping up with increasing costs.

Utility costs have risen, on average, 5.7 percent over the past five years and there is a 10 percent increase in the cost to replace textbooks. The class size ratios is expected to fall at each grade level.

Elementary school classes this year are budgeted to average 20.31 students, which is a 1.5 student reduction. Middle school classes are expected to average 19.33 students, which is a one student reduction and high school classes are expected to average 21.87 students, which is a 0.8 student reduction.

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