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School board acts on 2009-10 proposed budget savings

The Puyallup School Board approved two resolutions on March 23 that outline budget savings proposals as the district braces for a projected $11-$14 million shortfall in the 2009-10 school year.


In one action, the board unanimously approved a resolution that includes a detailed listing of reductions that would be necessary in a worst-case budget scenario. The proposal authorizes a Reduction in Force that reduces staff positions, eliminates or modifies some existing programs, reallocates staff resources, and reduces support services to achieve a balanced budget.


The district won’t know specifically what it will need to reduce until it has a more firm idea of how much state revenue it will receive next year. That final number won’t be available until after the state Legislature ends it session later this spring.


Increased state expenses coupled with decreased revenue have created a grim budget outlook for all of Washington’s school districts, which rely heavily on state funding. Nearly three-quarters of the Puyallup School District budget is funded by the state.


Even though budget uncertainties remain, the board approved the resolution (pdf, 64kb) of proposed cost savings this month so that employees affected by the elimination or reduction in positions can be identified and the district can meet state legal requirements for providing advance notice to those employees.


The board also voted to authorize staff to initiate a study to address the potential closure of Hilltop Elementary School and to report the results of that analysis at the next board meeting on April 13.


In a letter mailed last week to Hilltop Elementary parents, Superintendent Tony Apostle writes that the district has spent many years studying 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 a positive working climate for staff,” Apostle writes. “Small schools make it very difficult for the district to best serve our students, your children, and the cost of operating small schools continues to increase.”



Closure of Hilltop Elementary would produce an annual savings of approximately $350,000.



Puyallup School Board President Greg Heath said during the March 23 meeting that the proposed budget savings are “a blueprint” as the district moves forward with the budget planning process for the 2009-10 school year. “If anybody came here thinking the deal was done, it is not done …we do not have final numbers, nor does anyone at this point.”



Heath encouraged the public to attend one of four community budget forums scheduled in April to review the draft spending plan. Comments made during the meetings will be considered as Superintendent Tony Apostle prepares his recommended budget. Apostle is expected to present his recommended budget to the school board and public by early June.



The first public hearing on the recommended budget is scheduled for June 8. A second public hearing and final adoption is scheduled for August 10.


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