Othello School Board approves budget for 2019-20 school year

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OTHELLO — The Othello School Board approved a budget for the 2019-20 school year, but on a 4-1 vote, and after an exchange between a district patron and Othello School District Superintendent Chris Hurst.

Board member Ken Johnson voted no, saying he thought some components that should’ve been in the budget were not there. Board Chair Rob Simmons expressed surprise at Johnson’s vote and asked him what was missing.

Currently district officials are in contract negotiations with the union representing classified staff (district employees in support jobs like classroom aides, bus drivers and janitors). Johnson said he thought those negotiations should have been completed before the budget was considered by the school board. In his opinion there was time to complete them, he said, and that he would have preferred to know the contract’s impact on the budget before voting.

The 2019-20 budget includes a $67,648,002 general fund. Most salaries, maintenance, supplies and district operations are paid for through the general fund. The budget for the capital projects fund is $7,227,608. That’s used for construction, repairs and other capital expenses.

That fund includes a $5 million transfer from the district’s general fund. Director of Business and Operations Janette Bumgarner said the $5 million doesn’t have to be spent, but putting it in the budget gives board members the option.

The debt service fund was budgeted at $2,252,750. Debt service is the payback for outstanding bonds issued by the district. The budget for the transportation vehicle fund is $405,000, which reflects the purchase of two new school buses, Bumgarner said. The Associated Student Body fund is $547,284.

Bumgarner said the budget is based on a projected enrollment of the equivalent of 4,461 full-time students. That’s an increase of about 91 students.

During the public hearing on the budget, district patron Eleanor Brodall said she had asked for a copy of the budget on Aug. 1, but didn’t receive it until Aug. 5. According to state regulations it’s supposed to be ready by Aug. 1, she said.

Hurst said an earlier copy of the budget was available in July, per the state regulations. He said he thought Brodall was asking for the latest copy; the updated copy was available but he didn’t know that, he said.

Brodall said she tried to give Hurst a copy of the state regulations during their Aug. 1 meeting, but that he wouldn’t take it. “I respectfully disagree,” Hurst said. “There was never a time when you presented that RCW to me.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com

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