The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Andrew Christiansen

Lyle school district facing severe cuts

District could be dissolved in worst-case scenario


Uncertainty continues to grow around the Lyle school district following a budget workshop held last week with the assistance of Tim Merlino of ESD112.

During its annual review of school budgets and actual funds, the State of Washington determined that Lyle School district was “in the hole,” according to Merlino. That determination triggered a set of binding conditions, one of which required the school board to determine if the 2011-12 budget could be balanced. The good news for Lyle is that, on paper, using the expected tax revenue due through the end of 2012, the budget could be balanced.

With that condition met, Merlino has now set out to assist Superintendent Martin Huffman and the Lyle school board in developing a balanced budget for the 2012-13 school year, and all indications are that there will be some tough cuts ahead.

One of the challenges is that according to Merlino, there will likely be substantially fewer students next year, partially due to families opting out of the school district. “Our indications are that there could be 75 fewer students,” says Merlino, which would be almost a 25 percent cut given the current year student population of 311.

One of the cuts on the table is an administrator for a savings of $90,000. Merlino says when Dallesport Middle School came on line, there were about 450 students. The district has been making cuts, including teaching positions. “We think it only fair that administrative cuts be included if we are cutting teachers,” says Merlino. “We want to keep as much of the classroom support as we can.” Five and a half FTE of certified staff and another $111,000 of classified staff funding is also on the chopping block. Another item on the block that has been a hot issue for some time is $35,000 of supplemental contracts, including payments to Huffman and Principal Phil Williams, who were backfilling for classes or activities where cuts have been previously made.

Another $110,000 could also be gained, says Merlino, by eliminating the athletic budget. The intent is to find a way to continue the sports by using volunteer coaches, which would save nearly $80,000 and have ASB funds cover officials and perhaps part of the transportation budget. Fundraisers are also being considered to keep the sports programs afloat.

A lot is riding on the school board resolving the budget problems at Lyle. If they fail, the State can take control of the school and appoint an administrator with the goal of making the school solvent. If that proves impossible, the district could be dissolved, which, according to Merlino, “nobody wants.”

The school board meets at 7 p.m. this Thursday with budget hearing and budget approval expected at the July board meeting.


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