B.G. schools budget plan calls for more cuts

Reductions in pay, staff and program changes on the table

By Howard Buck, Columbian staff writer

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For a third consecutive year, all Battle Ground Public Schools employees — teachers, clerical and support staff and administrators alike — will take a cut in pay.

A 4 percent, districtwide reduction two years ago was followed by a 1 percent cut last year.

This time around, all employee groups will share the burden of a 1.9 percent reduction in state basic-education funding (aimed at teachers) by taking seven half-day unpaid furloughs during the 2011-12 school year that begins Sept. 7.

A Battle Ground school calendar already posted on the district website includes the seven state-cut furlough, or SCF, days, sprinkled across six months.

The first of seven early-release dates is Sept. 23. Students will be sent home, and schools, switchboards and the district office will close for the rest of the day.

The early dismissals, with some teacher layoffs that will push class sizes higher and force some program changes, highlight a tentative budget plan expected to be unveiled at Monday’s meeting of the Battle Ground school board.

The board meets at 5 p.m. in the CASEE “A” board room, 11104 N.E. 149th St. in Brush Prairie.

Board members will hold an initial public hearing on the budget plan, which was worked out following months of “interest-based negotiations” that engaged all employee groups but took place out of public sight.

A second, final public hearing on the budget is set for a 3 p.m. Aug. 29 school board meeting. By that time, school officials say, they hope employee groups will ratify the proposed deal.

“There’s nothing exciting in it, I’ll tell you,” said Mary Beth Lynn, assistant superintendent for finance and school operations.

By the numbers

The salary reduction, essentially imposed by state legislators, slices $1.4 million from the district budget, Lynn said.

Termination of federal stimulus money will cost the district another $4.5 million; reduction of state payments for grades K-3, about $1.2 million; and 10 to 20 percent reductions in basic funding for alternative programs such as CAM Junior-Senior High School and the HomeLink hybrid homeschool programs, about $665,000, she said.

One plus for the district: 2011 is the first year of a three-year, voter-approved replacement maintenance and operations property tax levy. It is expected to collect $20.5 million this year, considerably more than last year’s $13.7 million.

While the new revenue will offsets some of the budgetary pain, the cumulative impact of reductions “makes it difficult to move forward with what we were hoping to accomplish with the new money,” Lynn said.

“To add programs, to do some much-needed building repairs and maintenance, to add new curriculum, to replace aging technology (equipment): All of that gets set on the back table.”

Even so, “we’re just so fortunate to have the support of the new levy” to dodge even more serious cuts, she said.

Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or howard.buck@columbian.com.