School District looks to public for budget advice

Marsha Hart, KP News Peninsula School District is in a tough spot. It doesn’t have a budget because the state doesn’t have one yet, and that is leaving major decisions about everything from staff to services in limbo. The district is turning to the public for answers. Two public forums are scheduled this month to gather input from parents, students and residents in order to come up with a plan. Though the Peninsula School District levy passed, it will provide only 20 percent of the district’s funds, and Superintendent Terry Bouck said it isn’t enough.

Public forums

  • May 18 at 7 p.m. at Key Peninsula Middle School
  • May 20 at 7 p.m. at Henderson Bay High School
The schools are already underfunded, and a group of school districts have joined together to sue the state for failing to fully fund education as the State Constitution requires. With the current $9 billion deficit, the district will be expected to make up for the difference of between $2 million and $6 million that will be cut from state funding to the school district, said Charles Cuzzetto, deputy superintendent of Peninsula School District. “This is probably one of the most challenging budgets we’ve had because usually by this time of the year we know what our revenue is going to be and we can develop our budget,” Cuzzetto said. The district’s budget is about $85 million, and taking $6 million away is significant, he said. Trimming is inevitable, and Bouck said the district conducted an online survey to determine the level of priority for things such as class size, instructional materials and professional development. The district will use the survey to make recommendations to the board, Cuzzetto said.“The board will work on what they think might be a balanced budget,” he said. In addition to the online survey, the district will conduct forums in May to gather feedback. The public is invited to attend a forum May 18 at 7 p.m. at Key Peninsula Middle School, and on May 20 at 7 p.m. at Henderson Bay High School. “We’ll be addressing the budget and where we’re at in the process,” said Karen Sexsmith, finance director for the school district. “If they have any suggestions, comments or input, we will ask for that.” The online survey results show that maintaining the current class size is the highest priority for those who completed the survey.  Closely tied were safety and security, maintaining district facilities, providing social and health services, and regularly upgrading technology and textbook and instructional materials. The lowest priority is utilizing communication tools. The school board will meet May 28 following the forums, Cuzzetto said. Bouck, Cuzzetto and Sexsmith have been traveling to the schools in the district to talk about the budget problem with the staff, they said. They are asking the staff to provide advice for what to cut. Another issue facing the district is shrinking enrollment. This year the district had 300 fewer students, Cuzzetto said, and the district will likely have fewer enrolled next year. “We have some larger classes moving through our system,” he said. “In a few years we’ll see the baby boomer grandkids come into the system so we’ll start to grow again, but we are getting a little bit smaller, which also has in impact on revenue.” With state funding down, and enrollment down at the same time, both Cuzzetto and Bouck said some services would have to go. “It might mean more students in the classroom, it might mean less supplies,” Cuzzetto said. “It might mean a program goes away,” said Bouck. “It might mean custodial support, it could be just about anything at this point,” Cuzzetto said. “We absolutely don’t have an idea what the state is going to do in terms of reduction,” Bouck said. The results of the online survey are available at