Pine Strawberry School District Faces $20,000 Cut

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The Pine Strawberry School’s $2.4 million budget this year will drop by just $20,000 from last year because of state small schools money that helps the district compensate for other losses.

The board approved the budget, which included $1.1 million in the small schools money, at Monday’s board meeting.

“If it wasn’t for the small school adjustment, we wouldn’t be open,” said Business Manager Mary Jo Licavoli.

The state funds schools partially based on enrollment. Small schools have fewer than 125 students, based on a formula.

Pine has about 118 students, according to the formula.

The district lost $32,000 because of reduced enrollment and $50,000 in money that helped pay for rising utility costs.

In terms of education, Licavoli said little will change. In fact, a new art and physical education program, taught by Dean Pederson, will start.

“That was just one of those things the board wanted to see,” Licavoli said.

Funding for classroom instruction dropped nearly 9 percent, to $848,000, while special education classroom instruction dropped nearly 19 percent, to $218,000. A laid-off special education teacher accounted for much of that difference.

Superintendent and Principal Mike Clark said the declining number of special education students made having two teachers unnecessary.

“The budget right now is sufficient for us to continue to do what we need to do — provide services for the children,” he said.

Much of the school’s equipment is old, Clark said, and the district budgeted $603,000 for plant maintenance, up about $100,000 from last year. Clark said the district will replace a 250,000-mile school bus with a used one that costs $26,000. He also said he wants to replace the school’s 20-year-old swamp coolers with a heat pump system.

Although Clark said “the small schools have apparently lucked out so far,” he worries about fiscal year 2011. “I don’t know what that’s going to look like. Even the budget the legislature is playing with now is $2 billion too short.”

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