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Superintendent's Budget Message

March 23, 2009



Dear Community Members,


As we are all well aware, our nation and our state face an unprecedented economic situation, resulting in budget challenges that affect local families, businesses, and the Puyallup School District.


Based on information in the governor’s proposed 2009-11 budget, combined with enrollment projections for next year, our district is preparing a plan to reduce current staffing and program costs by $11 to $15 million. While we will not know the final impact of state budget cutbacks until after the state Legislature finishes its work later this spring, we do know that significant reductions in current district programs and the number of staff will be necessary.


Our district has known for months of the state’s worsening revenue forecast and began last year studying its options to reduce spending. Last fall, several study groups were formed to review programs and services and develop potential cost-saving strategies. Our school board members heard recommendations from those study groups during a study session earlier this month.


At tonight’s meeting, our district Board of Directors approved a resolution authorizing a Reduction in Force (RIF) that reduces staff positions, eliminates and/or modifies some existing programs, reallocates staff resources, and reduces support services for the 2009-2010 school year. This board action is necessary at the present time, even though many budget uncertainties remain, to identify under RIF procedures the employees affected by the elimination or reduction in positions and to meet state legal requirements for providing advance notice to those employees.


The board also voted to authorize staff to begin the development of a written analysis for the potential closure of Hilltop Elementary as required under Board Policy 6883. For many years, we have studied the effectiveness of small schools. The enrollment at Hilltop Elementary School is approximately 200 students, and it is not expected to grow in the foreseeable future. In addition, this significantly low student enrollment makes it challenging to provide a viable and equitable student learning environment, as well as one that promotes professional development opportunities for staff. Small schools make it very difficult for the district to best serve our students, and the cost of operating small schools continues to increase. It is anticipated that the closure of Hilltop will result in an annual savings of $350,000 to be reallocated to other district programs and student services.


The analysis to be prepared by staff will be presented to the Board of Directors on April 13. If the Board moves forward with this process to close Hilltop Elementary, there will be a minimum of one public hearing as required by state statute for public testimony. The date and time of this public hearing will be announced on the district Web site, in other written district communications, and in local print media for two consecutive weeks, with the last print media notice published not later than seven days before the public hearing. 


I realize that every cost-cutting measure represents reductions in school or district programs, staffing, and services and reductions in a person’s job. These are not easy decisions. These are extremely difficult decisions made in public — reported fully or partially by interested media — that must be made to keep our budget in balance today and to put us in a strong financial position for the long term.


A listing of proposed budget reductions will be posted on the district’s Web site at on Monday, April 13, 2009. I encourage stakeholders to review this document and provide comment at one of four community budget forums:


  • April 13, 10 a.m. to noon; Education Service Center, 302 Second Street S.E.
  • April 15, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Pope Elementary, 15102 122 nd Avenue E.
  • April 20, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Ferrucci Junior High, 3213 Wildwood Park Drive
  • April 23, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Woodland Elementary, 7707 112 th Street E.


I urge all of you to do all that you can to help continue to build on the strengths of our district and move our children forward in a determined quest for excellence.



Dr. Tony Apostle