Drivers' ed a casualty of budget crunch

Despite $800,000 in cutbacks, the Bremerton School District board of directors is maintaining the bulk of school programs.

However, driver’s education will no longer be offered as a class at the high school because the Legislature cut traffic safety funding. It will now be offered as a self-supporting after-school program at a cost of $200 per student.

A central office administrative position was also cut, and grant management duties will now be spread among remaining administrators or classified staff.

For the second year, each elementary school will have an extended day kindergarten class — part of the district’s goal to have every child reading at grade level by third grade.

More money in the $47-million budget was allotted for teacher training and professional development.

“We want to make sure the teaching staff is supported. That has got to happen,” said Kevin Ferguson, director of finance and operations.

The board met its goal to keep about $1.2 million or 3 percent of the budget in an unreserved fund balance — money which will be used for emergencies.

The district decreased fourth and fifth grade class sizes in recent years using “Better Schools” money from the state. That money was cut this year, but depending on enrollment, class sizes could remain steady.

Bremerton’s administration costs are lower than most school districts, Ferguson said. He attributed the savings to good management.

Besides looking at ways to save money for the district, the district took advantage of low interest rates to refinance its 1992 bonds used to build Kitsap Lake Elementary School. The move lowers tax rates, Ferguson said.

“As a financial manager of community dollars we are going to do the best we can to keep tax rates down,” Ferguson said.

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