Tonasket schools finalize budget

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board finalized its budget for the 2012-13 school year and approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the teachers’ union that had been negotiated by superintendent Paul Turner at their Tuesday, July 23 board meeting.

The approved budget includes a general fund of $10,798,100; and Associated Student Body fund of $196,989; and a debt service fund of $791,000.

For the general fund it represents an increase of about $80,000 over the 2011-12 school year. Anticipated revenues come in at $10,715,731, meaning a potential dip in the fund balance from $800,000 to $717,000.

The budget is based upon an anticipated average enrollment next year of 1,040 students, which determines the level of state funding the district receives.

By comparison, the 2011-12 budget was based upon an expected enrollment of 1,005 students. The actual enrollment for the year averaged 1,055, and the estimated enrollment for next year is expected to be similarly conservative.

MOU

The Memorandum of Understanding represents a four year agreement between the union and the schools on how to deal with the 1.9 percent cut to teacher compensation enacted a year ago.

Turner said that the 1.9 percent equaled about three days pay and that the MOU adjusts teachers’ personal days to compensate.

“In the contract right now they have two days of personal leave that the district picks up and two days where they can pick up the sub themselves, potentially four days,” Turner said.

That now increases to a maximum of five personal days during the school year, all of which the district will pay for the cost of a substitute. For unused personal days, teachers will be reimbursed for the equivalent cost of paying for a substitute for those days at the end of the school year.

“(The reimbursement) is an incentive to keep the teacher in the classroom,” Turner said.

The agreement will be good for four years: the final year of the current contract, and the three years of the upcoming contract yet to be negotiated.

Turner said with the 1.9 percent issue dealt with, contract negotiations will focus on three main issues: teacher/principal evaluations, health insurance, and language discrepancies in the current contract.

“I really want to thank the teachers for the time and effort in dealing with this again,” Turner said.

Capital needs

The board also discussed the fact that the bond levy used for construction expires in Dec. 2013, and that further funding will be necessary to deal with continuing needs in terms of maintenance and enhancements to the district facilities.

Turner discussed two possible types of levies that could be used: a bond levy, that would give the district funding all at one time, but would need to be repaid with interest over time; or a capital levy, which would allow the district access to capital funds only as they were collected (for a maximum of six years), but would be interest free.

Levy rates are subject to fluctuation depending on property values, but a capital levy at a rate of $1.90 per $1,000 would bring in about $850,000 per year.

Turner shared a list of capital projects that was preliminary in nature, but the board generally agreed that the top priorities were to replace the alternative education building, which has been housed in a decades-old portable; and additional classroom space in the elementary school. Other projects that could be considered include roof replacement, resurfacing the track and finishing the athletic facilities, and expanding the Ag shop.

Turner led the board on a tour of the facilities, highlighting the areas where he saw needs.

“If this is what we choose to do, we need to plan for the next six years,” Turner said. “We’d have to run a levy next spring.”

The district’s final average enrollment for the year finished at about 1,055, after a decline in June pulled the average down to its lowest number of the year. It was the first year that the state counted June enrollment numbers.

Also, the board approved the hiring of Agustin Pedregon as varsity boys basketball coach.

The Tonasket School Board next meets Monday, Aug. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the district office board room.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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