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Teachers air budget frustrations with Snoqualmie Valley school board

School starts in the Snoqualmie Valley School District on August 30, but there’s no budget yet, and negotiations are still on for teacher contracts.

Frustrated by perceived disrespect, about 50 district teachers attended the Snoqualmie Valley School Board’s July 21 meeting to hear the budget proposal for the 2011-12 school year. They waved signs that read “Respect” and “Invest in Quality,” asked pointed questions, and some became very emotional as they talked about poor management decisions and the future of their careers.

“I’ve seen money spent on curriculum and equipment and things like that, that two years later, we’re not even using. It’s  sitting on a shelf,” said Mount Si High School teacher Karen Rockow.

“It fries me as a taxpayer,” Rockow added. “We just can’t spend like that any more... I wouldn’t run my home like that when things are tight.”

Things are very tight for the district, which had to absorb a mid-year reduction in state funding of $500,000, but Business Services Director Ryan Stokes noted that the proposed budget for 2011-12 was balanced and did not call for any teachers to be laid off. Instead, the current proposal calls for adding 3.5 teaching positions, to accommodate an expected enrollment increase.

The proposal that the board reviewed included: a “roll back” of $900,000 in maintenance and operations levy money, the amount in excess of a state-set limit; an allocation of roughly 80 percent of the total budget for teacher salaries; a $750,000 allocation for extra-curricular activities; and an estimated ending fund balance of $3.6 million.

Asked about the logic of finalizing a budget before contract negotiations are complete, Stokes pointed out a budget line item of $3.6 million in capacity, for unexpected spending like the $2 million the district spent on flood repairs in 2009, or pay increases.

“All school districts kind of do this,” he said. “It’s mainly so we don’t have to come back and do a budget revision every month when we have something like a flood.”

Stokes said the capacity also allowed for hiring staff  “should the student population come in higher than we were anticipating.” The line item includes $2.2 million budgeted for staff that was not needed last year.

According to the Snoqualmie Valley Education Association website (sveaunion.org), the district is proposing a 1.9 percent across-the-board staff pay cut as approved in the state legislature’s final budget for school funding allocations. Rockow told the board that the 1.9 percent was “a big deal” for her family.

Other proposals from the district included changes to health insurance to increase staff’s out-of-pocket costs, and reductions in leave days and large class-size support.

In response, the SVEA is asking the district to restore the 1.9 percent in pay, as other districts have done, improve health insurance and leave policies, and add support for larger class sizes.

The School Board will meet with the SVEA bargaining team Aug. 5, 9, 15, 18, 19, and 22, if needed. The Riverview School District and Riverview Education Association reached a tentative agreement in late June.

A public hearing for the board to take comments on the proposed budget is set for Thursday, Aug. 18. Following the hearing, the board is expected to adopt the 2011-12 budget. For district information, visit www.svsd410.org.

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