North Kitsap School Board weighing its options on next year's budget

POULSBO — The North Kitsap School District may need to cut 15 full-time equivalent positions to help balance a $1.7 million shortfall in its 2012-13 budget.

The shortfall is an increase of $370,000 since the last forecast in March.

The school board needs to make a decision regarding layoffs of the certified staff soon. By law, those not returning to work the following year need to be informed by May 15.

On April 19, the school board weighed its options during a special meeting. No decision was made.

"Sorry I look so pale, but I was expecting to hear [$1.2 million] and then I hear [$1.7 million] and it just about knocked me out of my chair," board member Bill Webb said near the end of the meeting.

The shortfall, as Superintendent Richard Jones described it, is a "moving target." The shortfall could be more, or less, by the time the board adopts a budget for next year.

In response to the declining revenue, a proposal to cut 15 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions was made and put up for board discussion/adoption during the April 12 regular school board meeting. The special meeting April 19 gave the board more time to debate the possibility of layoffs.

Of the 15 FTE, 12 would be "usable" attrition; an equivalent of 12 positions will be vacant at the end of this school year due to retirement, resignation or leave of absence and would not be filled.

With the attrition of 12 out of the way, that would leave three FTE of certified instructional staff — teachers, specialists, support — to be laid off.

The board was advised of three suggested routes that could be taken during the special meeting.

The first: Use the 12 FTE attrition and lay off three people.

The second: Authorize the layoff of five FTE regardless of attrition level. This, according to a presentation by Assistant Superintendent Chris Willits, would "ensure adequate flexibility" in staffing specific subject area at the secondary level.

The third: Allow further attrition to absorb the remaining three FTE — if there is any; don't give any certified staff layoff notices and if useable attrition level exceeds 15 FTE, or the budget allows for it, hire more staff.

However, the 15 FTE will not make up for the total shortfall as it will cut about $1.2 million from the budget.

In order to meet the board's 3 percent fund balance reserve, which was reduced from 5 percent, it needs to cut about $600,000 more.

Board member Dan Weedin and board president Kathleen Dassel stated they were in support of "option 3."

Board member Tom Anderson suggested zero-basing the budget — building it from scratch. He knows it's "a huge undertaking," but might be something to consider. He noted the major benefits of grant funding still being brought in to help the district.

Board member Scott Henden said his decision will be driven by facts. Though he understands the personal side of layoffs, he doesn't want to allow that to sway him.

The district is expecting 110 fewer students to attend schools in North Kitsap in 2012-13 — it receives more than $5,000 in state and federal funding per student.

The continued loss of I-728 funding and K-4 enhancement funding complicates matters. Funding totaled about $3.5 million in 2008-09 and helped the district lower class sizes. After the district lost the funding the following year, it used tax levy funds to keep those smaller classes.

Last year, the school board authorized a reduction of 28 FTE positions due to the predicted budget deficit in May 2011. The reduction was 10 elementary staff, 13 secondary and five specialist positions. Attrition prior to May 15, 2011 was 19.34. A total of 11 teachers — 8.66 FTE — were affected by layoff notices.

However, seven of the 11 teachers originally laid off for the 2011-12 year were rehired due to further attrition and increased kindergarten enrollment and ELL program need.

But the reduction of 28 FTE did not fully address last year's overstaffing and the district began the year overstaffed by 15.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for April 26 at 6 p.m.. The Citizens Budget Review Committee will be on hand to present recommended cuts.


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