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Mabton school officials brace for budget cuts

MABTON - The current legislative session in Olympia is less than a month old, and already budget concerns are being raised here in the Lower Valley.

That was true last night, Monday, at the Mabton School Board meeting where district finance director Gina Grow outlined statewide education cuts that are on the table.

Grow said the process actually started in December during a special legislative session. At that point, state funds for K-4 class size reduction were slashed in half.

Now it's a new year and a new session, and Grow said lawmakers are considering eliminating the other half of K-4 class size reduction money, as well as cutting funds for programs aimed at "highly capable" students.

Likely the biggest issue facing Mabton and other small schools on the east side of the state is a proposal to reduce levy equalization money by 13 percent between now and 2013.

Grow explained Gov. Gregoire and legislators are mulling a 6.82 percent cut in levy equalization for this year, and another 6.3 percent cut for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.

School staff will also see impacts under the proposals, she added, as for the next two school years the state is considering pay freezes and no cost of living increases for teachers.

Grow noted things could get complicated this year for cuts that apply to the current school year. She said school districts may have to return some funds for program cuts impacting the 2010-11 school year. That's if lawmakers follow through on cuts already on the table.

Since the cuts are proposals at this point, the Mabton School District's initial response is to schedule three visits to Olympia to lobby legislators between now and March 1.

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