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Budget woes laid to rest

POULSBO — The North Kitsap Community Pool has been given a stay of execution.

In a 3-1 vote, North Kitsap School District board of directors on Aug. 28 approved the 2008-09 district budget, which will keep the pool open until Dec. 31. Board President Melanie Mohler only votes in the event of a tie.

The budget approval resulted in trickle down impacts on co-curricular stipends, athletic participation fees and the school resource officers (SRO), all programs that were cut or reduced with the approved budget.

When the district’s budget balancing pens had worked their magic for the last time in what was a grueling, nearly year-long process, the final result was an approximate $65.3 million balance, which includes $70,000 to fund the pool through Dec. 31.

Of the pool subsidy, $45,000 is from the district and $25,000 from the Save Our Pool fundraising efforts. The city of Poulsbo also contributed $15,000 to the pool’s coffers.

“Boy did it get quiet in here,” Mohler said as the time to vote was at hand.

Board Member Ed Strickland’s was the lone dissenting vote, as he disagreed with spending $45,000 on the pool because those funds could be better used elsewhere.

“I’d rather spend $45,000 on class size, SRO’s and no athletic fees,” he said. “I don’t think we can continue to operate it until the people decide how to fund it. If we are going to keep it open for a period of time, you run it in the summer when they have time to use it. I just don’t think it’s a very good idea what you’re doing.”

Executive Director of Finance and Operations Nancy Moffatt told Strickland his concerns and comments are issues that will be brought before the Pool Advisory Committee to solve. The board approved the formation of a pool committee at a special Aug. 11 meeting.

Based upon Thursday’s budget approval the girl’s swimming season will continue, however, the boy’s swimming season may be sunk as it runs through Feb. 20, 2009.

“We need to know in October a decision on the boys,” Executive Director of Student Support Services Gregg Epperson told the board. “Ideally it would be at the first board meeting in October.”

Primary areas of discussion regarding the budget centered on SRO’s and athletic fees.

In a vote taken before the approval of the budget, but one which hinged completely on the budget, was increasing athletic participation fees $15 for two sports at both middle and high school levels, to $50 and $75, respectively.

The Athletic Department had to trim or raise revenues of $151,000, of which $80,000 is generated via athletic participation fees. To chip away at the remaining $71,000 some funds were shaved from co-curricular transportation and unfilled coaching positions would be left vacant. This dropped the number to $23,000. In June Epperson told the board if the pool remained open the recommendation was to raise fees $15 to accommodate the $23,000 for swimming season expenses. If the pool closed, then the athletic programs zeroed out.

Strickland called for evaluating the fees based on a per sport basis. He’d like determine a fee schedule based on what each individual sport actually costs.

“In the future we should look at it as a cost basis,” he said. “We need to know what are the costs of each sport.”

Dan Delaney was concerned there’d be children who won’t turn out for sports because they can’t afford the fees. He’d like to see scholarships available. He also called for more community discussions about the true benefits of athletic programs and what stake holders truly want for the students in terms of athleticism.

In the end the board, except Strickland, voted to raise athletic fees $15, as the pool is open through the end of the quarter.

Another hot button topic was the elimination of the SRO positions, as the approximate $32,000 portion of the two officer’s salaries NKSD pays were nixed from the budget.

Strickland said he couldn’t imagine operating the district’s schools without the presence of the SROs. The entire board was sympathetic to losing the two security officers, but in a period of tough economic times, tough decisions are the norm.

A common belief brought forward by Delaney was it’s not the district’s responsibility to pay for police protection of the students, nor is it mandated.

“I grieve for the loss of the SROs,” he said. “It’s not a school district’s responsibility to pay for law enforcement for our students who are citizens.”

The budget was approved and the SROs were not.

Superintendent Rick Jones said he’d met with both Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney and Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer to discuss the program and relay the district’s concerns.

Moffatt said the budget has built in capacity based on per student allocations and currently enrollment looks good, which could also mean good news for the SRO program.

“I certainly think that (SROs) would be one of the first things we’d look at if enrollment looks better than we think.”

Co-curricular stipends were cut by $75,000.

The board reconvenes on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Board Room of the Student Support Center, 18360 Caldart Ave. NE, Poulsbo.

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