Snoqualmie Valley, The Freshman Learning Center Is Happening, But Can The Budget Afford It?

Last week the SVSD administration put a real number on tough budget reductions.  That number includes 14.2 teachers leaving the Snoqualmie Valley School District if the school board approves the administration’s 2012-13 Expenditure Reduction Plan next week.  Some teachers are retiring.  Some are resigning.  Luckily, only a couple could get layoff notices.  Over 20 hours of daily Instructional Assistant time could also be lost next year, equaling roughly 3-4 full-time IA’s.  That’s about 17 teachers and IA’s who instruct local students lost to balance a budget.  Their open positions will not be filled; there is no budget with which to hire replacement teachers.  Enrollment is predicted to increase by 60 students next year and the number of teachers will decrease by 14.  Class size will increase by roughly two students, predominantly affecting grades 3-5, but still felt district-wide.

What’s in store for the following year’s budget is still slightly unknown.  One certain thing is a 9th grade campus is scheduled to open that year; its principal already named.  Based on current preliminary estimates, the cost to run the FLC and two middle schools would increase the 2013-14 budget by up to  $300,000.  When the topic of how to afford the new Freshman Learning Center arose at the April 12th School Board Budget Work Session, an answer was not definite.  It was stated there was still time to figure it out.  It was stated SVSD could have more students by then; hence, more state funding.  It was stated the kindergarten model change could be revisited.

The Freshman Learning Center’s estimated budget increase comes at a time when the SVSD budget has already been trimmed to what one school board member called “bare bones.”  The FLC/ 2 middle school budgetary increases stem from additional transportation, overhead and staffing costs. The additional staff would be a principal, one FTE teacher/counselor and another possible part-time counselor at the FLC.  Transportation costs would increase due to shuttling students and teachers between MSHS and the FLC.

According to a school board member, SVSD Business Manager Ryan Stokes said there will be no increased utility overhead costs (electricity, heat, water) to run the new portables at Chief Kanim and Twin Falls Middle Schools.  Those new utility costs will be offset by savings at Mount Si High School.  Essentially, the MSHS portables (installed in 2009) won’t be needed in 2013 so the budget used to operate them will be transferred to the middle school level.  At last night’s Freshman Learning Center Q & A Session, Principal Belcher stated he did not know if the MSHS portables would go unused or not.  One parent expressed concern that if the Mount Si 3-year old portables sat unused, it seemed like a waste of 2009 taxpayer bond money.  If they are used, then additional utility costs could further increase the FLC/ 2 Middle School operational budget, but minimally.

At the budget work session, school board members and administrators noted the district may have more students in 2013.  More students means increased state funding – approximately $6000 of state/federal money per student.  This additional funding could offset the costs of a new 9th grade campus if those funds were not used to hire more teachers.  No firm estimates on increased enrollment numbers or funding were given at the work session, though.

Running any school costs money, whether it’s new or old.  A Freshman Learning Center and three middle schools would cost the district an additional $700,000+ according to the administration’s very preliminary estimates.  Those estimates also say running a FLC and two middle schools could roughly cost up to an additional $300,000.  Either way, the budget is about to undergo $1.3 million worth of cuts and the opening of the new Freshman Learning Center is only 16 months – and one budget cycle – away.  Only time will tell how we afford it.

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