Evergreen budget OK’d; cuts loom for 2011-12

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o Expecting 25,700 full-time students in 2011-12, Washington state's fifth-largest district.

o Adopted new $241.6 million budget, up 1.8 percent from 2009-10.

o Offering free, full-day, everyday kindergarten to all pupils this year, a first in Clark County.

o Expecting 25,700 full-time students in 2011-12, Washington state’s fifth-largest district.

o Adopted new $241.6 million budget, up 1.8 percent from 2009-10.

o Offering free, full-day, everyday kindergarten to all pupils this year, a first in Clark County.

Minus any teeth-gnashing or acrimony on Tuesday, the Evergreen district school board adopted an operating budget for 2010-11 that calls for spending $241.6 million.

That’s an increase of about $4.25 million from last year, or 1.8 percent.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story: Evergreen begins full-day, everyday kindergarten this year and will pay $3.5 million more to add about 40 teachers and make room for those extra classes.

Which means a lot of nip-and-tuck went into keeping intact most of the rest of the budget.

The district trimmed $1.1 million by eliminating nearly four dozen elementary school instructional assistants, who had led classrooms during allotted teacher planning breaks.

(Elementary schools will now release pupils 2 hours, 20 minutes early on all Wednesdays, to preserve teachers’ full planning time).

Evergreen shaved another $400,000 by shifting teaching coaches from the administrative corps back into union-scale teaching ranks. It plans to squeeze $700,000 more from new energy savings, on top of measures already taken.

The district lopped a few more administrative positions, worth about $200,000. And while it granted small pay increases to some employee groups, salaries remain frozen for Superintendent John Deeder and other top administrators.

Thanks in part to a two-year replacement maintenance and operations property tax levy approved by voters in February, the district will pump $2 million into new technology for schools.

It will funnel $1 million into priority school maintenance, and $1 million toward bonds to pay for recent or upcoming construction, including a new health and bioscience high school near Southwest Washington Medical Center.

Deeder noted about $16 million has been pared from normal spending levels in the past two budgets, all but about $3 million in tightening coming last year.

But the next chapter in Evergreen’s budget history promises true misery.

With federal stimulus money running dry and Washington state legislators likely to vote deep new cuts in public school funding in light of continuing state budget woes, Evergreen will face much worse budget trauma in 2011, Deeder warned.

“This may be the ‘easy’ year,” he said.

Two key Olympia school funding streams are threatened: a levy equalization fund that boosts districts with lower-than-median tax values, and extra classroom dollars for grades kindergarten-through-four. Losing those two alone would cost Evergreen $16 million to $18 million in annual revenue, Deeder said.

“We’re not done. We’re not even close to being done, given the economic situation,” he said glumly. “I just have to keep saying to people, anticipate (reductions) being much larger for 2011-12.”