Superintendent unveils 2010-11 recommended budget

Superintendent Tony Apostle presented his 2010-11 recommended budget on June 28 during the first of two public budget hearings.

A second public hearing on the recommended budget is scheduled on Monday, August 9. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. at Ballou Junior High and will be immediately followed by the regular school board meeting. The board is scheduled to take action on the budget at that meeting.

The recommended spending plan maintains a balanced budget in the face of an estimated $2.95 million budget shortfall — the difference between projected expenses and available revenues.

“The financial conditions we have been experiencing in recent years have made budget development very, very challenging,” Apostle said. “Even in these tough economic times, our district’s highest goal is to continue to increase student achievement, and this recommended budget reflects the prioritization of resources in support of that goal.”

Deputy Superintendent Debra Aungst outlined the financial plan for the school board at the June 28 budget hearing. She gave specific plans for the 2010-11 school year and generally addressed budget challenges and potential solutions in 2011-12 and beyond.

“Like all school districts, Puyallup is challenged to create a balanced budget in these difficult economic times,” Aungst said. “Despite the challenges, we are staying the course for long-term student academic achievement and financial stability.”

Aungst projects the Puyallup School District will receive $4.8 million less in state revenue in 2010-11. Nearly 75 percent of the school district’s revenue comes from the state.

The loss of state revenue includes the state Legislature’s decision to eliminate all Initiative 728 money.

I-728 is a statewide initiative passed by Washington voters in 2000 to provide, among other things, reduced class size, extended learning opportunities, professional development for educators, early assistance for children who need pre-kindergarten support, and building improvements related to class-size reductions.

Some of the money in the district’s ending fund balance — money carried over from the previous school year — will be used to ease 2010-11 legislated funding reductions such as money used to reduce class size. This plan allows those reductions to be deferred to the 2011-12 school year, Aungst said.

School Board President Diana Seeley said having to draw from the district’s ending fund balance to balance the budget is indicative of the challenging financial times.

“The fund balance to us is like our reserves — our savings if you will,” Seeley said. “That’s another component of how difficult this time frame is for us economically.”

Aungst also projects a decline in some federal and local money, including a loss of investment earnings due to lower interest rates.

The district projects it will serve as many as 254 fewer students in 2010-11. As a result, plans are to reduce the budget by 13 teachers and approximately three classified employee positions.

Revenue is expected to increase, Aungst said, from income associated with changes in state legislation regarding voter-approved school programs and operations levies.

Costs, however, are also expected to increase in areas such as utilities, legal fees, licenses, and other non-negotiable rates, as well as employee compensation pursuant to previously bargained multi-year collective bargaining agreements.

Proposed cost-saving strategies include reducing energy costs through the use of energy-efficient software on computers, reducing money spent on copiers and risographs (printing machines designed mainly for high-volume photocopying and printing), and reducing expenses related to the district’s new teacher academy program.

The budget also reflects salary freezes for the superintendent, principals, central management administrators, confidential employees, the Puyallup Association of Educational Office Professionals, professional technical employees, and paraeducators. Negotiations are still under way between the district and other bargaining groups.

A structured voluntary furlough program is also recommended districtwide. Plans are to extend the furlough program into the 2011-12 school year.

The budget calls for the expansion of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program to Edgemont Junior High and the addition of a mechanic in the Transportation department.

Aungst noted the budget keeps all schools open, maintains lower class sizes, minimizes impacts on programs for struggling students, keeps all athletic teams intact, and stabilizes transportation services.

“This plan is mostly about stabilization,” Aungst said. “The bottom line is it retains our current service levels for another year. It allows our system to have just a little more stability while we plan for reductions in the 2011-12 school year.”

The approved budget is the culmination of more than six months of study and deliberation, as well as a series of community and staff budget forums.

For more information about the budget, contact Aungst at (253) 841-8762. Or, click to go to the 2010-11 Budget information page on the district website.