Bremerton schools hope to plug budget gap

Staffing cuts will be needed in Bremerton schools to make up a $2.8 million budget gap for next year.

The district faced a May 15 deadline to notify teachers who would be cut through a reduction in force (RIF). Originally, 22 teachers faced RIF, but Bremerton Schools Superintendent Bette Hyde said three of those have already been called back. Those teachers are Kristi Fenton, Shannon McMahon, and Lyle Miller.

Hyde attributed the callbacks to an additional three teachers retiring at the end of this school year, keeping the total reduction in teaching positions at 34.

Declining enrollment combined with an increase in the apportionment of per-student funding by the state is to blame for the budget gap the district faces, said Kevin Ferguson, director of finance and operations.

“This budget is, of course, contingent on input from the Citizens’ Finance Committee,” Hyde said, adding that the committee began meetings this week.

Administration and classified staff will also face cuts due to the budget concerns. Hyde explained that a principal position will be cut, since the recently passed bond will allow the district to operate just one middle school. The assistant director position at West Sound Technical Skills Center will not be filled when the current administrator retires, nor will the assistant superintendent position.

Ferguson said it is unfortunate that personnel cuts have to be made to balance the budget, but most other expenditures are fixed such as heating, lighting, and replacing old and worn equipment.

“We are tightening our belts on the areas we can,” he said, mentioning travel and office supplies as examples.

Ferguson said the district has saved money by combining with Central Kitsap schools to do bus maintenance.

“As we can work common things together, we will do that to save dollars,” he said.

Hyde pointed to the efforts of librarians to rally around one another and make cuts in supply usage and ordering new books for a year, in order to prevent a reduction in elementary school librarians’ positions to half-time.

The school board heard passionate pleas at its May 19 meeting on behalf of classified staff facing cuts, including elementary interventionists who faced reduction to half-time. Elementary interventionists have since been brought back to full-time at the district’s largest and neediest schools: View Ridge, Naval Avenue and West Hills.

In regards to other classified staff, the district’s spokeswoman Krista Carlson said, “Principals are working on reductions at the building level and administrators are working with the unions.” The district hopes to finalize those staffing decisions early this month.

Ferguson said the cuts have

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