Lyle School Board cuts budget 23 percent, adds back .3 FTE for interim superintendent
The Lyle School Board passed a budget that anticipates $777,237 less revenue and $825,032 less spending for the 2012-13 school year. The 23 percent cut in expenditures was described by Tim Merlino as “a huge cut for a small school district.” But it is just the beginning of action that will hopefully right the school’s sinking ship and secure its future.
Merlino is the administrator assigned by ESD112 to advise the school on action that would immediately balance the budget and then work to improve the overall situation at the school. The cut in revenue and budget is predicated on an expected enrollment of 220 students, a loss of 75 from the current year. Teaching staff will be reduced to 7.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) at the middle and high schools and 4 FTE at the elementary school. Secretarial staff will be reduced by one position which is accounted for through retirement.
Last month it was reported that Superintendent Martin Huffman would leave after taking a position at Toledo High School. Huffman made that official with his resignation at Thursday night’s school board meeting. The initial plan was to reduce administration to one position, but the Board backed off that a little, deciding to fund a .3 FTE interim administrator. Next spring the board will revisit that position and perhaps make it permanent. The Board also concluded they could not find a volunteer athletic director, so they assigned a $5,000 stipend to that position. They also created a $5,000 stipend for a “lead teacher” to be a person in charge at Dallesport School in the absence of an administrator.
The reduction in revenues comes mainly from loss of state general purpose funds, amounting to almost $600,000. Those funds are based on enrollment, which is driving the budget reduction, along with the need to correct a negative fund balance.
According to Merlino, the state requirement is a minimum of 10.2 teaching FTE for schools the size of Lyle. That number was determined to be too low for the natural flow of classes and classroom management at the two campuses, so the Board settled on 11.2 FTE. That is a cut in 5.5 FTE from their certified, or teaching employees. They also cut four paraprofessionals, one bus driver and some reduction in grounds and maintenance.
In other business, the levy issue arose again. The Board had authorized a replacement maintenance and operation levy asking of $427,000 then were advised it would be an illegal election. They tried to remove it from the ballot, but missed the deadline and ballots were already printed and mailed to military voters. In Thursday’s meeting, Tom Jellum moved and Jeff Eiesland seconded a motion to authorize legal action to stop tabulation of the levy election or stop collection of dollars should it pass. The topic drew much discussion from the audience. Board chair Penny McAnally said “taxpayers are already calling OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) and complaining.” McAnally expressed concern that the school could be sued. The Board’s general counsel, Jeanie Tolcacher said that the Attorney General and the Supreme Court have determined that a third election would be illegal. McAnally called for a vote and all voted yes with Tria Bullard abstaining.
The board was also presented notification that the petition for redistricting the Lyle School District with three districts and two at-large members was certified by the Klickitat County Auditor. There were 384 valid signatures on the petition out of a total of 431. The requirement to have the measure on the fall ballot was 372 valid signatures. ESD112 is currently working on the wording that will be submitted for the ballot.