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Sequim schools face increased costs

The skyrocketing gas prices have an effect on more than just drivers — the Sequim School District is feeling the burn as well.

According to business manager Brian Lewis, the district will be spending approximately $60,000 more to fuel up buses and other district-owned vehicles in the 2008-2009 school year, bringing the total to $154,000.

According to Lewis, the district also is being slammed with several other cost increases for the upcoming school year that are out of its control.

“The state mandated salary increases for all district employees,” Lewis explained. “They only provide funding for a portion of the employees.”

The rest, said Lewis, has to be compensated by the district itself.

Another soaring cost is the required contribution to employee retirement funds, which went from 6 percent of the employee’s salary to 7 percent and is expected to jump to 11.1 percent by next year.

Despite the changes, Lewis said the district is not planning to cut back staff.

“We’re not really in a position to reduce our staffing,” Lewis said. “If we reduce staff, not only do we see increased class sizes but we’re required by the state to maintain a student to teacher ratio (of 53.2 teachers to every 1,000 students in kindergarten through fourth grade and 46 teachers to every 1,000 students in fifth grade through high school).”

Other cost jumps include $20,000 more for insurance liability, determined after a revaluing of the buildings, and a 6.5-percent increase by the Public Utility District for electricity.

Lewis said while the district did receive more funding from the state, funds also had to be drawn from the district’s savings.

“Taking money from our fund balance is not something we plan on repeating,” said Lewis, who added that the district generally creates its budget conservatively, with a deficit in mind.

According to Lewis, administrators are looking into other options for the following years.

As of now, the only cost that will be directly affecting students is a possible increase in food prices. According to district food service director Laurie Campen, due to fuel prices, delivery charges from milk suppliers will go up $450 during the 2008-2009 school year and charges from grocery suppliers will go up by $504. Prices for milk have increased more than 5 cents per carton, adding $9,700 in milk expenses.

Due to the higher costs, Campen recommended a 10-cent price increase for all meals for kindergarten through 12th graders, with an additional 15-cent increase for all adult meals.

“This would enable us to maintain a food service program that would be self-supporting and make few cuts in service and staff,” Campen said in a memo to the Sequim school board.

Campen stressed that the increase is a last-resort move and that the district, which has the lowest school meal prices on the peninsula, hasn’t changed prices in nearly four years. She added that the program will have as much locally grown options as possible.

Superintendent Bill Bentley said the district would keep the costs from directly affecting families as much as possible.

“I know as a district we are sensitive to increases of this nature,” Bentley said at the June 2 board meeting. “While we wish it was possible for us to continue to operate the program without recommending the increase, that is not always the case.”



“Taking money from our fund balance is not something we plan on repeating.”

— Brian Lewis

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