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Lower enrollment means less funding for district

SNOQUALMIE — Administrators in the Snoqualmie Valley

School District are cringing at October's enrollment figures, which show there

are 43 fewer students in the schools than anticipated.

That might not seem like a large number, but if the enrollment

trends continue, by June the district will have 132 fewer students than budgeted

for. In monetary terms, that means the district could lose about $500,000 for

the school year, or about $3,700 per student.

"This year we were conservative in our estimates, but they just

didn't show up," said Rosemary Ziara, the district's business manager.

"Historically, growth in the district has been

a nice, steady 3-percent growth over the last few years. And the number

we projected was a 3-percent enrollment growth, and that didn't occur

this year."

The biggest deficit was at the kindergarten level where the district

anticipated 170 students, but only 138.5 attended classes this month.

One of the contributors to the shortfall could be the surprisingly

low number of children from Snoqualmie Ridge. The district, with help

from homeowners on the ridge, will do a survey of how many children

from newborns through five-year-olds live in the planned development. This

will help the district anticipate growth better, Ziara said.

"We only got 22 school-age kids from Snoqualmie Ridge. We

thought we would get 120," she commented. "There are rumors that the kids 0

to five-years-old will be coming soon."

But until then, the district needs to deal with the possible loss of

funding this year. To offset the shortfall, Ziara proposed a 10-percent cut

to most major areas of the district. The cuts, however, won't affect

staffing levels or school programs.

"All of the programs in the schools are basically protected," she said.

"I don't see any program cuts that would directly affect students in the

classroom. We're trying to avoid that."

"It would be cuts like, `Let's see if we can buy fewer paper towels to

be more conservative.' You try to cut corners and be more economical

and make better decisions, and that's what we're trying to do," Ziara added.

Some of the cuts are easy decisions, such as the $30,000 that

was budgeted but never used to hire a part-time staff member. But when the

business office and maintenance department are asked to eliminate

about $80,000 from each of their budgets, that becomes a much more

difficult task.

Board Director Rick Krona stated he is hesitant to cut funding from

areas such as maintenance and curriculum, and said he would be

interested in seeking alternative solutions to the budget problems.

"I agree [that cuts have to be made], but at this point — it being

so early — we'll need to see how things go," he said. "Maybe we can use

some of the reserves to fund [certain areas] as a last resort, but I'd be open to

looking at that."

Ziara cautioned, however, that the district's reserve funds are limited

and should generally be kept for emergency situations, such as if a

school burned down and the district needed to rent another location.

The next step for the district, Ziara added, is for all the administrators

to decide how and where they will be able to shave areas to comply

with their new budget.

"It'll be difficult. I don't think anyone can easily take a 10-percent

cut," said Ziara. "We're moving dollars from people's budgets so they'll

have a new target to hit. We'll help them monitor it so they'll know that

negative budget accounts won't be allowed."

The board is tentatively scheduled to discuss the budget issue again at

its next meeting, at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the district office.

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