Governor’s budget squeezes schools

The recently released governor’s budget includes a painful cut that could cost the Oak Harbor School District much-needed funding.

A draft of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget shows the state slashing levy matching dollars, which, by some estimates, could mean a $140,000 reduction for the Oak Harbor district.

The school district receives $400,000 annually in levy matching dollars, also known as levy equalization dollars. This money is available to school districts identified as “property poor.” In Oak Harbor, Navy property is not taxed.

Many other school districts in the state would lose more money. For example, in Pierce County, the Bethel School District could lose $1.6 million and the Clover Park School District could lose $1.2 million.

The Coupeville School District doesn’t receive any matching levy dollars.

“There are many district that are going to argue against that,” Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte said during a break at last week’s school board meeting.

He said the situation could change as the state budget develops. The House and Senate both have to produce budget drafts and majority Democrats don’t like the governor’s version of the budget.

Schulte, like all school administrators, is worried how schools will fare as the Legislature tackles the big state deficit.

“We’re all concerned when you have a $6 billion deficit,” Schulte said.

There are a number of other cuts in the governor’s budget that will effect schools. Those cuts include reducing I-728 dollars and suspending cost of living adjustments for employees.

Schulte told school board members that a budget committee will form to consider changes as they come along. Some information won’t be available until June or July. Should officials have to cut teachers, they would learn about the reduction in May.

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