Budget adopted for new school year
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
August 29, 2008 · Updated 4:26 PM
27 full-time jobs eliminated
After months of painful work that included cutting teaching positions and support staff, the Oak Harbor School District has a balanced budget.
The school board the school district’s $47.1 million budget during its Monday evening meeting.
“This was the culmination of about six months of work on the budget,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said Tuesday. After so much time spent developing the budget, Monday’s approval was a fairly straight forward decision.
While the 2008-2009 school budget represents a 4.2 percent increase in revenue over the previous year, school officials still had to cut the equivalent of 27 full-time employees. The spending increase stems from a hike in utility and fuel costs, a state-mandated cost of living adjustment, and increased contributions to employee pension funds.
Regarding the state-ordered cost of living adjustments, increases are based on formulas that don’t account for every employee. The school district has to make up the difference using its own funds.
The school district had to cut $2 million from its budget in order to balance it.
Schulte described the approved budget as fiscally sound, but that could change if costs continue to rise and revenue continues to decline. The bulk of the money the school district receives from the state is based on enrollment, which has been dropping steadily this decade.
Last year’s budget projected a 5,200 student population. This year, the projected number declined to 5,100 students.
Schulte said that elementary enrollment for the coming school year is looking pretty good, with some of the grade levels at some of the schools being full. He didn’t have enrollment projections yet for the middle schools and high school. The first official enrollment count takes place Sept. 9.
The balanced budget represents months of work by a budget committee, meetings with school staff and parents, and discussions during every school board meeting. Schulte added that the budget was a hot topic during recent negotiations with two unions when employee contracts needed renewal.
There are a lot of events coming up in the coming months that could effect the budget for the next school year.
Schulte said the state and federal elections in November could change the climate in Olympia and Washington, D.C., and a state task force is issuing a report at the end of the year concerning school finance.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.