Westwood School District faces deficit for 2008-09 school year
This spring three elementary school teachers, a counselor and five instructional aides were laid off. In the upper grades there will be a 4th/5th-grade combination class and 5th/6th-grade class. She said Henry Bietz, district superintendent, had looked at every possible way to trim the budget and there was nothing left to cut.
“Declining enrollment is hitting us hard. We are not generating enough revenue to cover expenditures,” said Uchida.
This coming school year Westwood High will lose $85,000 in state funding because it dropped a category in the small school formula, which is based on enrollment.
Another blow to the school district was the failure of Congress to renew legislation that gave money to schools in districts with large amounts of federal forest land. WUSD was receiving around $163,000 in Forest Reserve funds, which would cover the current deficit.
Uchida said the budget is based on the amount of all funds the district expects to receive. For example, the state will most likely cut categorical funds by 10 percent; therefore, in calculating revenue, the district did likewise.
However, the state legislature has not yet passed a budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. This fact provides some hope, said Uchida. When the budget is signed by the governor there may be enough funds to cover expenses and balance the Westwood School District budget. Uchida said there may also be money in the accounts receivable from the 2007-08 school year, which the state has not yet paid.
In spite of the shortfall, there have been a few new hires in the district for positions that needed to be filled. Miriam Pidilla was hired to teach math at the high school and Kellie Bainbridge will teach Spanish. Also, Keith Clark from the Tahoe/Truckee area was hired to drive a bus.
Uchida said while overhead remains the same, the revenue for the district continues to dwindle. To address this problem, Bietz has had conversations with State Senator Dave Cox about legislating new ways to cover the costs of running rural schools. To date nothing has come of the discussions.
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