By the end of next school year, San Juan Island School District will have a lower balance than almost all of its surrounding counties three years prior.
Brent Snow, SJISD board member, explained the budget procedure at the Sept. 13 school board meeting. He compared SJISD’s current budget to other counties, using the most current data provided by the state’s education agency, he said.
At the end of this school year, SJISD will end with a 3.5 percent balance, equalling about $400,000.
That balance, said Snow, is the district’s reserve funds for unplanned events and cash flow. Unplanned events include if students with special needs join the district throughout the year. Special teachers and equipment needed for those students come out of local funds, according to SJISD Business Manager Jose Domenech.
By the end of the 2014-15 school year, only one school district in Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties ended with a lower balance than the district’s projected 3.5 percent. Of the 22 school district’s, Lummi Tribal ended with 1.3 percent. The next lowest was Bellingham with 5.6 percent.
Initially, SJISD was to end with a balance of 6.6 percent, but after teachers went on strike and negotiated a 3 percent wage increase, the balance lowered. In the 2014-15 school year, only four districts had a lower end balance than 6.6 percent.
Over the past five years, the highest end fund balance for SJISD was roughly $1,100,000 at the end of 2015-16, states Snow’s report. This year will end with roughly $700,000 less.
Teachers and students’ parents questioned the budget after teachers negotiated contracts, prompting Snow to hold the workshop.
Snow explained that reducing classroom sizes by hiring more educators to teach fewer students, has been the “primary objective of the board.” The average number of students per certified fulltime educator has lowered by two since the 2013-14 school year, he reported. The average wages for certified fulltime educators has also increased by roughly $9,500 since 2013-14.