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School Board officials approve 2009-10 budget

Sunnyside School District officials last night, Thursday, approved the 2009-10 $62 million budget with little fanfare.

The process, though, was grueling.

Last spring, school district administrators began to investigate where to make cuts after learning of the state's $9 million budget shortfall and the impact it would have on the district.

Among the proposed cuts at that time were 22 para-pro positions. Also on the chopping block was the pre-school program.

That was before the school district learned it would get stimulus funding.

At last night's meeting, Sunnyside School District Assistant Superintendent Gary Vegar told school board directors the district will receive nearly $8 million in stimulus funding.

That restored some para-pro positions and the pre-school program, but the school district is now tasked with identifying how it can maintain positions and programs when stimulus dollars are gone.

Vegar said, "They want us to use the money right away. They also want us to have a plan as to how we will sustain (those programs). How do we sustain positions and programs? They want us to be able to speak to that and to plan for it. The school district is currently trying to identify ways to do so."

Superintendent Rick Cole noted that the school district will be in a similar position in terms of identifying cuts when creating the 2010-11 budget.

"We're going to be facing all of these decisions again in a very short period of time," Cole said.

Sunnyside School Board Director Miguel Puente noted a misconception exists as to how school district dollars can be spent. Many, he said, are earmarked for specific projects, programs or positions and can't be applied elsewhere. "Much of the funding is specific in use," Puente said.

Vegar noted that the school district is on the receiving end of 40 different grants. He added that approximately $17 million of the district's budget is grant funding.

The Sunnyside School District budgeted $61,842,273 for the general fund, $350,000 for the transportation vehicle fund, $51.1 million for the capital projects fund, $2.3 million for the debt service fund and $537,090 for the ASB fund.

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