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Schools pass budget for next year with $1 million in added revenue
By NATALIE MARTIN
The Vashon Island School District has finalized a budget for next school year that maintains district programs, provides staff previously approved raises and adds part-time custodial and technology positions as well as a new Spanish preschool program.
“There were very few changes,” said Superintendent Michael Soltman, explaining that the district was not required to make any cuts for next school year. “We’re very stabl,e and we have adequate reserves.”
Last Thursday Vashon’s school board unanimously approved the $17.5 million spending plan, which is about $1 million larger than the 2013-2014 budget. The added revenue comes largely from increased state funding and local tax revenue based on enrollment. Last year the district’s enrollment grew by about 50 students, all of whom came from on-island.
About half the district’s added revenue will go to salary and benefit increases for teachers and other staff. Last year the teacher’s union negotiated 8 percent raises over three years for the district’s roughly 100 teachers, librarians and counselors. At the time, district and union officials said the pay increases, which were approved by the school board, would put Vashon salaries closer to those of other districts in the area, though Soltman said the district’s pay is still at the bottom of that range.
Staff received 3 percent pay increases last school year as part of their new contract and will receive another 3 percent next school year, then 2 percent the next. Principals also received 5 to 10 percent raises to be implemented over three years.
The spending plan approved last week also adds a half-time custodial position needed due to increased janitorial needs at the new high school as well as a half-time technology position that Soltman said is needed because of the increasing use of technology at the district.
“Everything is on the network now,” he said.
The Vashon Schools Foundation raised about $235,000 this spring, short of its $500,000 goal. Soltman said the contribution was still enough to bridge the district’s small budget gap of about $150,000 and purchase new math curriculum for the elementary school — half of which was funded by the PTSA — as well as badly needed textbooks at the middle and high schools.
“It allows us to fulfill our commitment to update curriculum,” he said.
Also approved in the new budget is a new Spanish preschool that the district plans to begin this fall. The preschool will be mostly funded by a $132,000 grant the schools recently garnered from the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and will serve up to 24 Spanish speaking preschoolers next year. Those students will then have the opportunity to attend Spanish kindergarten at Chautauqua, a program also added in recent years.
Soltman said he expects to see some added funding from the state for the preschool program, and the district may contribute some money for it as well.
“We are just really pleased with being able to offer early childhood programs for our most needy and vulnerable children and families,” he said.
Soltman said he feels good about the financial picture at the school district, which he said weathered the recession thanks to funding from the schools foundation and the PTSA and is now in a more stable place.
“It was remarkable that we didn’t sustain any significant program cuts during that time,” he said. “From that, we’ve been able to build a really comprehensive program and continue to enhance and develop new programs along the way.”
He added that there is more the district wishes it could fund should it have the means, such as additional professional development for teachers and new science equipment for the high school — both among the items the foundation was unable to fund this year.
“It was really an ambitious goal, but we’ll be able to continue to fundraise for those things next year,” he said.