NKSD budget woes aren't bygone

NORTH END — The community will be able to weigh in on the North Kitsap School District's 2009-10 budget reduction suggestions with a voting process of its own.

From 7-10 p.m. tonight in the Kingston High commons, community members are invited to help NKSD prioritize the community work group suggestions. Coffee and cookies will be provided.

As of Tuesday afternoon approximately 70 had registered for tonight's meeting. NKSD Director of Communications Chris Case said if more volunteers have an inkling to help they should "just show up."

"We're happy to have them," she said.

After cutting $2.8 million from the 2008-09 general fund budget NKSD now faces a $1.3 million deficit.

"We've gotten all the low-hanging fruit off the tree, now we're into the bark," said NKSD Director of Finance Nancy Moffatt. "It's every district in the state having to make cuts."

At the start of November NKSD began its budget development process for the upcoming fiscal year. The community has been involved since the beginning of the process. NKSD solicited the help from North End citizens who were then divided into 13 community work groups. Each group was assigned one area of the budget to finely comb over and make budget reduction recommendations.

The groups trimmed 1 percent from transportation, special education, food service and the schools' and the departments' overall budgets were shaved by 5 percent.

The suggestions to be prioritized this evening range from eliminating the stipend for homecoming royalty to the tune of $544, to lengthening the curriculum adoption cycle from eight years to 15 years saving $90,775.

The prioritized suggestions will then be given to the school board members for consideration in their budget decision making process.

"We will identify which things the community thinks are important and which things they definitely want cut," Case said, "and the school board will have a better sense of how to prioritize the suggestions."

NKSD staff and departments are going through the same process

While NKSD and community volunteers are putting serious time into developing the 2009-10 budget, things could dramatically change come spring when the state budget is finalized in the Legislature. The state's budget dictates allocations for education and puts stipulations on how some funds are spent. Washington is confronting a budget shortfall, which could result in some tax dollars once dedicated to education to be shifted to other programs.

Moffatt said the state assumed shortfall increased from some $6 billion to approximately $7 billion on Tuesday. That only takes into account the governor's proposed budget, as Moffatt said the House and the Senate budgets will be out by March.

She said the governor's budget was very kind to education but "damaging" to social services.

"The next forecast will be in March and I wouldn't be surprised if it's ($7 billion) higher," Moffatt said. "That $1.3 million could change."

NKSD's primary concern is how the state shortfall might impact I-728 funds, which are earmarked to keep class size low. Moffatt said the district funds approximately 35 teachers with I-728 dollars.

Sharing a positive outlook, Moffatt said NKSD's in a pretty good position.

"Because we cut $2.8 last year we're in better shape because we have been conservative and tightened our belts," she said.

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