By MARGIE DOYLE
At the May 22 regular school board meeting, Orcas Island School District Finance Manager Ben Thomas explained one of several proposals by the OISD Administration to reduce the projected deficit for 2008-2009 from $667,000 to $435,000. Those calculations came from reducing the reserve fund balance target on Aug. 31 2009 by $65,0000, and including $100,000 expected local revenue from donor contributions. Additional reductions were identified in non-Employee related costs (NERCs) and minor food service reductions.
Superintendent Glenn Harris prefaced his superintendent’s report by saying that although the collective bargaining agreements (with the teacher’s union) are employee-cost items, he wanted the agreement to be presented in a positive nature, which is why a “memo of understanding between the OISD and the union stated that a fiscally stable school district communicated a win-win aspect to the community. “The importance of community support is recognized,” Harris said, and the fact that “the OISD faces program and staffing cuts in the next few years is not directly connected to the negotiations; it is not the negotiations that brought the district to this state.”
Later in the meeting, Board member Scott Lancaster stated that the budget deficit was not due to mismanagement, saying, “This shortfall is different from two years ago when we didn’t know how we got where we were… Two years ago it was mismanagement. It was a mess.
“This administration – this board and the previous board – have straightened that mess up. Now, it’s compounded by Olympia.”
Harris said that in the previous year, twice the amount of time was spent in historical accounting, budget narrative accounting and personnel accounting as was spent this year. “That costs money,” Harris said, stressing the importance of a long-term plan to keep the OISD’s business office sound. “The cost of correcting is huge. We need plans and resources and reserves of various types to deal with spontaneous and planned expenses.”
Harris then presented the various budget reductions that had been proposed, or “all the ‘what-ifs’ are on the table; no program is protected from cuts.”
He emphasized that these were not decisions or recommendations, but simply scenarios of additional ideas that had been suggested:
• If the 6.75 FTE certified staff cuts remain in place, the amount recouped would be $309,000.
• The .2 FTE cuts in the elementary and secondary principal positions would recoup $35,000.
• The Waldron School’s principal’s stipend comes to $2,900.
• If the alternative education program’s allocation to parents were retained by the district, $26,000 would be added back into the budget. However, Harris said, the trade-off may be on-site education programs at the OISD buildings.
• If 50 percent of athletic travel were reduced, the amount retained by the district (above what the district receives from the state) would be $67,000. The result may be that school families will need to car pool or provide for field trips, Harris said.
• If hot foods were eliminated from OISD food services, $45,000 would be realized.
• If stipends were removed from OISD athletic programs, $130,000 in savings would be realized. “But you’ll hear about it from the community,” Harris said, acknowledging remarks from the public.
• If the school’s librarian were not funded, the district would realize about $68,000 in personnel and supply costs. Teachers would be responsible for a check-out system, Harris suggested.
Board member Tony Ghazel expressed his disappointment that his suggestion that a nine percent reduction be planned “throughout the campus” to come up with the cuts had not been presented.
“We have to figure out ways to re-establish an effective administration for the teachers and the kids. Today is very problematic with a $667,000 shortfall,” Ghazel said.