School board approves new budget

There will be no more talk of budget cuts in the South Whidbey School District. At least until next year.

On Monday, the South Whidbey Board of Education approved a $19.5 million budget for the 2002-03 school year. This figures takes into account the $850,00 the district was forced to cut due to a loss of state funding and dropping enrollment.

The nearly $20 million budget is divided into five funds; a general fund of $16.5 million, $114,050 of transportation money, $98,000 of capital projects money, $2.8 million for debt service and and $370,414 for the Associated Student Body.

Last year's budget was $19.4 million.

This was the second budget presented to the board, a budget which by state law is had to be adopted by Aug. 31.

Built into this new budget is an $87,000 in reserve funds from the general fund which will be added to the district's standing reserve account, taking the balance from $520,175 to $607,175.

The deposit into this account will, however, be gradual.

"It will not be added at one time, but rather over the year, depending on cash flow. It acts as a buffer for emergencies," said Mike Moore, the district's business manager, during Monday's school board meeting.

The budget was adopted three votes to two. Directors Bob Riggs and Helen Price Johnson voted no. President Ray Gabelein and directors Barbara Schneeman and Jim Adsley voted in favor of the budget.

"The reason I voted against it was the internal reserve had been moved into the undesignated funds," Johnson said.

Superintendent Martin Laster recommended adopting the budget so the district can move ahead.

Gabelein noted that state and federal funding to the district -- about $13 million -- covers the district's personnel costs. Other costs, including building maintenance, are paid by local property tax levy.

Taking up one issue that will have an affect on the current year's budget, the district's facilities manager, Rick Pitt reported that work to resurface the South Whidbey High School track will begin this week and is expected to be completed, along with middle school roof repairs, before school begins. The work is expected to cost about $60,000.

In other business, Rufus Rose of Langley suggested to the board that district students have access to the Sno-Isle Regional Library system within school libraries.

"It should be integrated and made available in all schools so that students and teachers can request and have material delivered from Sno-Isle libraries to the schools," Rose said. "If it improves education, it might be worth pursuing."

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