Largest cuts ever for Central Kitsap School District

An estimated $6.8 million will need to be cut from the 2012-2013 school year budget for the Central Kitsap School District and where to start is everyone’s question.

“It’s a little nerve-racking because we’ve already had some big cuts already,” said Lori Durham, who has a son in the school district.

Because of its loss of federal monies in lieu of taxes — about $4.3 million for next school year — among other factors such as declining enrollment, the district must make the largest budget cuts in a single year it has ever had to, district officials said.

Usually discussions of the budget begin in January or February for the following school year but because of having to cut an estimated $6.8 million, discussions have already begun.

The district has offered three community forums discussing the district’s budget situation, asking feedback from parents and staff on what they think should be kept as priorities when considering the budget.

“There will be a priority that has to go on,” David Beil, district spokesman said. “We wanted to start this process early so the community could provide this input.”

The district was temporarily disqualified from receiving heavy impact aid because of its property tax rate not being high enough. Heavy impact aid is federal money that school districts with large military populations are eligible to receive. The district can reapply in 2014 and could begin receiving it the following year.

Aside from the loss of heavy impact aid, a decline in enrollment will cause about a $600,000 cut to the budget. Other contributions to the nearly $7 million estimated budget deficit next school year includes reduced stimulus funds, increased fixed costs such bus transportation and other estimated cuts from the state and federal level.

Since 1999, enrollment at the district has steadily seen a decline, said David McVicker, district finance director.

For Debbie Rice, a retired teacher from the Central Kitsap School District, cuts to the arts programs are a concern. She was an English and theater arts teacher at Central Kitsap High School for 16 years and has a total teaching career spanning 41 years including teaching in Arizona and California.

“They do cut from the arts programs, most districts seem to do that,” Rice said. “That’s a concern because of all the years I did theater arts, most students come to school for their programs, not because they are really excited for American lit.”

Other programs such as band or football can be have a positive impact on students and would be difficult to consider cutting as well, Rice said.

“That’s where their passion is. I don’t want to see anything cut,” she added.

Rice added that because she had about 50 essays to grade every two weeks when she was teaching, she had a reader go through the essays first and do edits. The reader was a person who would check for simple mistakes she would then read the essays for content. Not every teachers used the readers, Rice said, adding that the program was cut this year.

There were many other cuts to the current school year’s budget.

The district has frozen carryover budgets, suspended out-of-state travel for students and staff and suspended purchasing furniture and supplemental materials.

Curriculum materials and professional development have been reduced by $90,000.

McVicker said that social studies textbooks at the secondary level are 17 years old because they have “frozen” getting new textbooks.

“We aren’t going to keep that up much longer,” McVicker said.

The Starbase Atlantis program where fifth graders visit Naval Base Kitsap - Bangor and is funded by the Navy, will continue but transportation to and from the base has been eliminated, said McVicker. The transportation cost for that program is $7,500 and would need to be funded by another source, he added.

Beginning summer 2012, Summer Academy — the district’s summer school program — will only be available by paid tuition. The $138,000 cut to the program means there will be no reduced tuition option for the program. Last summer the program cost $200 per student, said McVicker.

All of these reductions, among others, were made to offset the loss of heavy impact funding, according to the school district.

Durham has a third grade son at Emerald Heights Elementary School and said this school year her son is having less time in physical education class. Other than that reduction, the other “big thing” she knows of are the furlough days.

This school year there are seven half furlough days. And although it is saving the district money, it may be cutting into families’ budgets, Durham said.

“Most people that work outside the home have to figure out what to do during those days. It’s going to be expensive to hire daycare or to take time out of work, which will affect the family budget,” she said.

For some, they aren’t sure how the half furlough days are saving the district money.

Lynn Beeman, who has two daughters in the school district, said that if children are still being transported to and from school and with heating and electricity costs for the day, “how does that make sense financially?” she asked.

Instead of half furlough days, full days off would make more sense, Beeman added.

The furlough days — spanning throughout the entire school year — are a result of state funding cuts. The state funding for teachers and staff was cut by 1.9 percent and for administrators by 3 percent.

McVicker said that 86 to 87 percent of the district’s $113 million budget is toward salary and benefits.

There are 712 certified staff — which includes teachers, counselors and others with certificates — in the district, whose salaries range from $37,107.26 to $70,547.33, according to documents provided by the district.

The district has 53 administrators with salaries ranging from $67,056 to $121,700.

Jeanne Beckon, the district’s executive director of human resources, said the lowest salary accounts for someone who has no additional duties and no prior experience such as a new teacher straight from college. Teachers can also earn additional compensation for things such as having an overload of students in a class — more than the contractual number — or being an athletic coach or the head of a department, she added. The salary ranges for those with additional compensation range from $37,107.26 to $98,758.

Unlike teachers who may receive additional compensation, there are not as many opportunities for administrators to do so aside from a longevity stipend and cellphone reimbursement, Beckon said. An administrator could make up to $125,034 with a higher-end salary with one or both of those additions.

As far as district cuts for the future, Durham and Beeman don’t know where the district should considering cutting.

“It’s so hard to say what should and should not be cut because basic education is very important — you really can’t cut from that,” Durham said. “It just feels like such a shame that these choices are even having to be made.”

Zoe James, currently an English and theater arts teacher at Central Kitsap High School, said that she had a talk with the principal two years ago resulting in a casual agreement that the drama program would not be cut and she has not seen any reductions. But, she isn’t sure what the future holds.

“We’re all holding our breaths right now,” she said.

James added that the drama department does a lot of fundraising on their own. They are funded to have three productions in a school year, which does not include a musical, she said. There are added expenses such as higher royalties that make doing a musical more costly. Her drama students are in the midst of rehearsing the school year’s first production, “Play On,” a comedy that they will perform in mid-November.

“To be considered a quality high school, you have to have good creative, co-curricular offerings as well,” James said.

Beeman said that she thinks so far the district has been cutting where it needs to appropriately. She thinks it’s “phenomenal” that teachers have not been cut.

As far as planning for a $6.8 million budget shortfall, Beeman said the community needs to be provided with more information. She said it would be beneficial if parents knew how much specific programs cost rather than be asked at the community meetings, what they would prefer to cut or not cut.

“As much as I like music, if it was compared to something else, maybe I would look at it differently,” Beeman said. Her ninth grade daughter has been in band for five years and her younger daughter, in fifth grade, started band this month.

Aside from programs such as band, Beeman worries that the budget cuts may affect class sizes.

“I would hate to see 30 kindergarteners in a class. We’re faced with some really tough choices,” she said.

In January, the district plans to have a prioritized budget list and will again seek input from community members in February.

“We all want to be part of the solution. We’re all in this together,” said Beeman. “I think they have done an amazing job — moving forward we need more information.”

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