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Dollars and cents..future rosier for local schools

Financial directors in the local school districts can breathe a little easier thanks to the recently approved state budget, which restores funding for some basic education programs. Sunnyside School District, based on the 2012-13 budget figures, will receive nearly $3.4 in additional funding from the state for the 2013-14 school year. The district's current funding for basic education and extended basic education programs is $22.65 million. Finance Director Jeff Loe said that means a 1.9 percent salary cut for certified staff will be restored, as will a 3 percent cut in the salaries for classified staff. Also restored is more than $510,700 in fringe benefits. "The legislators are trying to fully fund basic education in compliance with the McCleary ruling," Loe said, noting the Washington Supreme Court last year ruled that the state must fully fund basic education. "Not all these things are basic education," he said of the extra funding that is added for the coming school year. Nearly $376,000 is allocated for transportation, for example. Loe said that funding helps the school district because it has been supplementing the transportation expenses "...to the tune of approximately $800,000." The additional $376,000 in transportation funding, said Loe, frees up money in the general fund for other district needs. Loe said the additional basic education funding will help the district restore salaries for teachers, reduce classroom sizes and meet costs associated with purchasing materials and supplies. He said there are various departments that have over the years, because of budget constraints, made due with the funding that was available. However, the needs of those departments will be evaluated and prioritized. Loe said the district also has an obligation to meet requirements of the Washington State Auditor's Office. As a result, the funds will be set aside in a reserve account until the priorities of the district can be properly reviewed. "That's the hard part...balancing the needs of the staff, various departments and requirements of the auditors," said Loe, stating the school board will be reviewing the proposed 2013-14 Sunnyside School District budget, which was submitted to the state yesterday (Wednesday). The fiscal year begins on Sept. 1. Grandview School District has been allocated just more than $1.9 million from the extended funding account, and Mabton will receive nearly $503,000 in new monies.

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