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Bainbridge Island School District faces potential budget shortfall; board expected to announce 'fiscal emergency'

A new round of layoffs may be on the horizon for the Bainbridge Island School District.

District officials are preparing to adopt resolutions this week to declare a "fiscal emergency" and reduced educational programs for the coming school year.

In a memo sent to the school board April 17, Superintendent Faith Chapel noted that uncertainty still abounds over how much state funding will be available for K-12 education next year.

The district also expects to lose $90,000 in funding for special education and Title I programs due to the federal sequestration cutbacks, she said.

Enrollment is also expected to fall from 3,641 this year to 3,585 FTE (full-time equivalent) students for the coming school year. That's a loss of 56 students.

In her memo, Chapel said staffing must be cut by four FTEs to align staffing with enrollment. Making the staff reductions is expected to reduce next year's budget by $340,000.

"While the staffing reductions may seem high compared to the projected loss of enrollment, the staffing levels for 2012-13 were bolstered by the Bainbridge Schools Foundation and the higher-than-anticipated enrollment at the beginning of this year," Chapel wrote.

"Our registration data for next year indicates the current staffing levels cannot be sustained and will need to be reduced," she noted.

According to a draft budget project completed on April 14, the district could face reduced revenues and increased costs next year that total $1.1 million.

The school board is expected to vote at its meeting this week on reductions to next year's educational program.

If the board adopts the cuts that have been recommended, six employees will get "reduction in force" notices.

The reductions total two FTEs, and district officials noted that retirements, resignations and leaves of absence helped reduce the number of RIF notices sent to teachers.

The proposed reductions are:

.4 FTE, Grades 7-12 Music - Vocal;

.6 FTE, Grades 7-12 World Languages - French;

.2 FTE, Grades 7-12 Career Technical Ed - Family/Consumer Science;

.2 FTE, Grades 9-12 Career Technical Ed - Photography;

.2 FTE, Grades 9-12 Career Technical Ed - Technology Education;

.4 FTE, Grades 9-12 Social Studies.

According to the school district, cuts to the classified staff — the group of employees that includes custodians, bus drivers and other non-certificated staff — will be determined at a later date. The district said it does not anticipate significant changes in staffing for the 2013-14 school year, but said "some reductions may be necessary due to enrollment or changes in funding."

The early budget numbers aren't all bleak.

A preliminary estimate of the budget for 2013-14 shows a potential increase in the local levy and rental incomes for next year, as well as additional revenue from the state.

Those increases are overshadowed by the drop in enrollment, however, plus increased costs for pensions, insurance, unemployment and other expenses facing the school district.

The program and operations levy for next year is expected to rise by $100,000, and rental incomes are also anticipated to climb by $35,000.

A preliminary estimate of additional state money has been set at $490,000, though the estimate has been made with strong reservations given the three budget proposals pending in the Legislature.

Costs for pensions, insurance and other expenses could rise by as much as $250,000, though officials note there is also much uncertainty about that estimate, as well.

A few other unknowns are also in the mix and will come into play before any layoffs eventually come to pass.

The district will be waiting to find out the level of support it will get from the Bainbridge Schools Foundation for the 2013-14 year. The foundation is expected to meet in May to talk about next year's pledge to the school district.

District officials are also updating an estimate of the fund balance/reserves that the district will have at the end of the current school year, which could potentially be applied to the 2013-14 budget.

 

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