School board delays building closure until 2013-14 school year

POULSBO — The schools in the North Kitsap School District are safe from closure for another year.

Despite having an approximate $1.8 million budget shortfall for the 2012-13 school year, the North Kitsap School Board voted to stall closing a school or other facility. The decision will give everyone, including those on the School Closure Committee, more time to consider the potential money-saving options.

The board now has until Feb. 1, 2013 to decide which school, or facility, will close. A motion for the decision deadline passed unanimously by the board April 26 during the regular board meeting. Whichever building is chosen will close by the 2013-14 school year.

By next year, the district is expected to have lost an estimated 647 students since 2001-02. Director Tom Anderson noted the loss of students, along with the district's decision to open a new high school while enrollment was declining. The math, he said, doesn't work out. However, that's no reason to rush a closure.

"It's going to affect everybody in the district," he said. "It's going to be a cascade effect." He added closing a school should be a two-year process, which the district is trying to accomplish in four months.

"If we rush, mistakes will be made; Murphy's Law will be enforced," he said.

Delaying the decision followed a recommendation by both the Citizens Budget Review Committee and Budget Advisory Team to close a school for next year.

Until the board makes a decision on which school it will close, it is unknown exactly how much the district will save. Here are the estimates: The review committee gave an estimated savings of $750,000 if a school was closed — between the lowest and highest amount the district could save. The advisory team estimated a savings of $700,000 if a school was closed, a conservative number, said assistant superintendent Chris Willits.

Both the review committee and advisory team provided the school board with lists of potential cuts. Neither set of recommendation, however, met the full — but estimated — $1.8 million shortfall the district faces.

According to documents provided by superintendent Richard Jones, savings are estimated between $696,207.81 to $879,265.85.

If a school is closed, there will be moving and maintenance costs which are estimated at about $19,000. Jones said that number could reach $25,000, but he doubts it would go much higher.

A closed school would also require maintenance and upkeep, but would not go beyond what is already done.

The $1.8 million shortfall is an increase of $370,000 since the last budget forecast provided in March.


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