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Snoqualmie Valley school board braces for current-year budget cuts

The Snoqualmie Valley School District needs to cut about $325,000 from its budget for the current school year. The cuts are a direct result of reductions in state funding, which provides more than 70 percent of the district's annual budget.

"We took our first hit back in September," said Snoqualmie Valley Superintendent Joel Aune. That initial reduction was $55,000, an attempt by the state legislature to cut spending, in response to a forecasted decline in state tax revenues. In December, the district learned of a deeper cut, bringing the total current-year budget loss to $325,000.

Aune said such mid-year cuts are very difficult to absorb, because the district has already committed those funds.

The Snoqualmie Valley School Board adopted the $55 million budget for the 2010-11 school year on July 8.

Aune hopes there will be no more current-year budget cuts, but he is nonetheless trying to prepare for them. According to Governor Chris Gregoire's website (www.governor.wa.gov), the state is still projecting a $2.6 billion shortfall in the 2009-2011 biennium, which ends June 30, 2011, like the current school year.

"We're not necessarily out of the woods yet," he said.

In the past four years, the district has lost about $6 million in state funding, including money from I-728 to reduce K-4 class sizes. Funds have also been cut from the district's "highly capable" programming, and from a supplementary program to reduce K-3 class sizes.

"We like to think they've taken it as far as they can go," said Aune, of the state legislature's cuts.

The state constitution requires that the legislature fully fund basic education, said Aune. Although some of the programming that first lost funding might not have been basic, "the cuts they're making now, we feel, are basic education cuts."

Aune and other school district and PTSA representatives met with District 5 State Representatives Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne in Snoqualmie Dec. 17 for an informal discussion on budgets. At that meeting, Anderson emphasized the state legislature's mandate to fully fund education, and announced plans to propose that the legislature fund education first in its planning for the 2011-13 biennium budget. The next legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 10.

The school board will review the current-year budget information for the district at its regular meeting, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, in the district office. Aune said he doesn't have any firm suggestions on how to meet the shortfall, so the discussion will mainly focus on ways to slow or reduce spending for the current year.

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