Nov 25, 2006

Olympia School District faces cuts--again

On the heels of increased spending, the district finds itself facing a potential shortage:
Under a 2006-07 budget totaling about $74 million, the Olympia School Board approved about $1 million in new spending. The budget set aside money for a new math curriculum, a high school counselor, several special education services and more. And that new spending made sense because the money went toward high-priority needs and because the district's reserve fund remained at a healthy 6.2 percent despite the additional costs, Lahmann and other district officials have said.

But if the school board doesn't make reductions in the 2007-08 budget, the district is expected to spend about $2 million beyond the revenue it takes in that school year, cutting the reserve fund in half. And the following year, projected spending would exceed revenues by another $3 million, leaving the district with a $531,000 deficit.

Staff raises, increases in health insurance and fuel costs, and more are expected to cause a revenue shortfall in years ahead, particularly as the district tries to purchase new curricula across the K-12 system, which can cost up to $1 million per subject.

"We're in a terrible position," Olympia School Board President Russ Lehman said. "We just have terrible choices, and this is all coming at a time when the requirements of education reform in Washington state are now being implemented in earnest. ... It's just terrible timing."
It is unfortunate--but then, this board voted against joining the funding lawsuit, which at least would have pressured the state to ease the situation. Lehman would have set aside $5,000 for the task--a small amount, but enough.

Note to the board: it's not too late.

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