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LWSD considers budget options
LAKEWOOD — As the state Senate and House of Representatives have worked together to adopt a budget, the Lakewood School District has closely monitored their draft budgets and amended drafts, and on April 16, Lakewood School District Superintendent Dennis Haddock explained, as much as he could, how these might affect the school district’s budget.
Haddock’s program did not include a specific review of proposed reductions, since the school district’s task force was continuing its work, but he did share the potential impacts from the draft budgets of the governor, Senate and House, including the suspension of Cost Of Living Allowance increases for staff, Local Effort Assistance funding reduction and/or elimination, and an “insignificant” increase in per-pupil allocation of 4 percent.
The Lakewood School District has used I-728 to reduce class size and to fund staff development, extended learning and early assistance to pre-kindergarten, but the draft budgets have included the reduction and/or possible elimination of I-728. Haddock noted that the Senate draft budget included the largest cuts to K-12 funding, such as proposals to eliminate 93 percent of the I-728 money, as well as the reduction of one extra day for teacher professional development, and the elimination of K-4 enhancement, which provides additional funds to lower class sizes. By contrast, as of April 16, the House draft budget sought to eliminate 60 percent of the I-728 funding and two professional development days.
Haddock pointed out the increased staff costs, as well as the costs of operating a school district, such as already-bargained increases to compensation, increased utility and transportation costs, and the costs of athletics and food service. He added that the state doesn’t fully fund all certificated, classified or administrative positions, and cited the continued costs of unfunded state mandates, such as BECCA truancy filings, comprehensive safe school plans and senior culmination projects. The flat, slightly declining enrollment numbers for the district also have a negative financial impact, since those enrollment numbers drive staffing and state allocations.
Haddock projected an expenditure reduction of $1 million for the next school year’s budget, although he expects that the federal stimulus package will provide some relief by targeting special education and Title I programs. He emphasized that the district remains committed to providing “quality education in safe, positive and efficiently managed schools,” and explained that the district will consider such strategies as increasing staffing ratios slightly across all levels, deferring further compensation enhancements, reducing the district’s fund balance, and balancing between reduced staffing and reductions in the discretionary program budget.
Budget work groups, consisting of 40 school staff and community members, examined portions of the general fund budget, to produce lists of proposed reductions for each portion. These lists were then consolidated into a comprehensive list of reductions, which a budget review committee of 28 school staff and community members have worked to prioritize, to reach targeted amounts of reductions for a number of different categories. From there, the prioritized list is set to be shared with the district’s Leadership Team and Board of Directors.
On April 25, the state Senate approved a two-year operating budget that includes more than $4 billion in cuts to education, health and human services and other state programs. The state’s K-12 system will be cut by almost $800 million, but roughly half of that will be offset by stimulus money going directly to districts.
When reached for comment, Haddock noted that the line-item information on the approved budget has not yet been released through the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, so “we still have nothing to go on, other than what was already proposed.” As of press time, Haddock hoped that this information might be released as early as April 29.
You may read a list of community questions and answers about the budget by logging onto http://www.lwsd.wednet.edu/district/pdffiles/CommunityBudgetQ&A.pdf.