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North Kitsap School Dist. draft budget in — $350K cut from pool

POULSBO — It’s been painstakingly difficult to say the least.

But after nearly a year of calculations and cuts the North Kitsap School District finance staff unveiled a first draft of the 2008-09 budget at Thursday’s board meeting.

“In all my 27 years in education I have never worked on such a difficult budget as this one,” said Nancy Moffatt, executive director of Finance and Operations. “We did it. We made it. And we have a balanced budget.”

The draft balances at $66,202,559.

In what has been the story all along, several programs — transportation, teen parent and childcare, summer school, athletics — made cuts and reductions to land on the magic number. But the most controversial cut is $350,000 from the community swimming pool.

The draft budget doesn’t accommodate pool funding, but it does include a capacity reserve of $2,708,005. And the capacity reserve is increasingly important in light of the pool. If the board votes to approve the budget without pool funding the reserve acts as a safety net.

“This (capacity reserve) is very important with the Save Our Pool effort,” Moffatt said. “If it’s approved without the pool we still have the ability to take the money and operate. It allows us to receive additional revenue and turn around and expend it.”

The board’s felt fire for the past few months regarding the possible pool closing.

And now that they face a budget that completely eliminates pool funding, much attention is placed on the capacity reserve, especially after an update from Andrew Sargent, a lawyer who’s co-founded the Save Our Pool 501 c3 nonprofit fundraiser.

He told the board on Thursday night they have a “terrible public image.”

“Everyone I talk to has said you’ve made up your mind. It’s a done deal. It’s a waste of time,” Sargent said.

When asked if this was true board President Melanie Mohler said “no.”

“We haven’t voted on anything yet,” she said.

The board hasn’t made up their minds in regards to the pool or the budget, and are hesitant to do so.

A hesitancy that was evident on Thursday.

Director Val Torrens expressed concern over the pool’s line item entry in the budget, as it’s all zeros. She requested an explanatory note be placed next to the pool line item, which states money for the pool can still be accepted.

Director Dan Delaney requested the draft be placed on the district’s Web site so all can see it’s just a draft, not a finalized issue.

“If money were to appear for the pool we have built in capacity for that,” he said. “This isn’t a done deal.”

As of presstime the draft wasn’t on the district’s Web site.

Moffatt suggested the board take a finalized budget vote in July, but again hesitancy flared.

“We’re all a little apprehensive,” Mohler said. “I feel that I don’t want to make a decision yet because if we can get some more money let’s give as much time as possible to the pool group. If we vote on the budget and there’s no pool in the budget it will be difficult for them to go out and collect money.”

Mohler said there’s too many unanswered questions at this time. She said there still needs to be discussions about keeping the pool open for a quarter or half a year at a time, solar heating, a pool blanket and potential partnerships.

“If the pool is not in the budget that doesn’t mean we stop these talks,” Mohler said. “Long term we do need to have a solution. It’s really critical that these discussions move forward.”

In response to the budget as a whole, Mohler said this year has been particularly stressful. She’s thankful nobody was let go and a reduction in force did not happen. Instead staff hours were trimmed and schedules were rearranged. Attrition is the magic word.

“It’s a difficult position to be put in. Decisions are not easy, they affect everybody. They touch each of us on the board,” Mohler said.

The board has to vote on the budget before Aug. 31.

The next meeting is July 10 at 7 p.m. at the NK Student Support Center Board Room on Caldart Avenue.

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