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School budget up over 4 percent

"The South Whidbey School Board general fund budget for this year will be 4.15 percent higher than the budget approved a year ago.A budget summary prepared by Rex Miller, school district budget director, shows the district expects to spend $16.06 million next year, up from the prior year's $15.44 million.Much of the increase can be pegged to a 3.7 percent cost of living increase going to teachers and other employees, thanks to an initiative approved by the votes last November.In its most recent salary move, the school board also approved 3.7 percent increases for the district's principals, except for high school principal Mike Johnson. Johnson received an extra step increase due to a miscalculation in the past, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Martin Laster. The change will be Johnson's 2001-2002 salary to $84,004.The remaining principals received the flat 3.7 percent hike. Eric Nerison, high school assistant principal, will make $69,291; Greg Willis, middle school principal, $81,358; Tim Gordon, middle school assistant principal, $66,543; Doug Hale, intermediate school principal, $79,125; and Bernie Mahar, primary school principal, $75,726.The school district is budgeting for 2,202 students in the upcoming school year, about 73 fewer than the prior year's budget. The board traditionally estimates enrollment conservatively to play it safe budgetarily.The number of certificated employees, a category that includes teachers and administrators, will increase to 147.77 next year, up just over six positions from the prior year. Some additional jobs were created by another voter-approved initiative aimed at reducing class sizes.If all works out as planned, Laster said, the district will have a $574,000 reserve at the end of next year, approximately 3 1/2 percent of the budget. But another one percent will be held in internal reserve, which Laster said will be available for emergency access. With the combined reserves, the district is nearing its traditional goal of having a 5 percent reserve. That goal has not been achieved for several years. "

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