June 25, 2008

Pasco School District Adopts Budget; Raises Milk, Meal Prices

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Jun. 25--Pasco School District's budget for next year includes adding staff positions to keep pace with growing enrollment.

It also reflects that the district -- like others across the Mid-Columbia -- is planning to spend more money to keep school buses running because of the rising cost of fuel.

The school board adopted the $135.8 million general fund budget during a regular meeting Tuesday night. The general fund pays for day-to-day operations, such as salaries and textbooks.

It's up about $20 million over this school year, mostly because of state-mandated salary and benefit increases for staff, said Larry Mayfield, assistant superintendent of business and operations.

The budget also includes $930,000 for fuel, an increase of $330,000 over the 2007-08 school year.

The budget is based on about 12,390 full-time students, not counting those in Running Start. That's up more than 200 full-time students from this year.

Growing enrollment is good news for school districts because they get money from the state according to how many students register for classes.

"Because we're growing, we're actually expanding a little bit," Mayfield said. "We are doing what we've been doing and improving on that."

The district is adding five portable buildings -- each with two classrooms -- at different schools and starting full-day kindergarten at Virgie Robinson Elementary School. Most of that program will be paid for by the state.

The district also is planning to hire more teachers and support workers. The equivalent of about 38 more full-time certificated positions and 27 full-time classified positions are included in the budget.

Certificated workers are teachers, psychologists and others who require a certificate to do their jobs, and classified employees include food service workers and bus drivers.

The fund balance, which is the rainy day money left over when the bills are paid, is projected to be $5.3 million, or a healthy 4 percent of the budget, Mayfield said.

The board also approved: $61.5 million for capital projects, including building Chiawana High School and renovating Pasco High; $10.6 million for debt service; $1.4 million for the associated student body; and $400,000 for school buses.

Also Tuesday, the board approved increasing milk and meal prices by 10 to 45 cents to help cover rising food, transportation and labor costs.

The increases will bring Pasco's prices closer to what other Mid-Columbia school districts charge. They won't affect the amount paid by students who qualify for reduced price meals.

A consultant in 2004-05 recommended the district raise the prices gradually over three years.

This is the final year of that plan.

The prices will break down like this: w Elementary breakfast will increase by 20 cents to $1.10. w Elementary lunch will increase by 30 cents to $1.95. w Secondary breakfast will go up 20 cents to $1.35. w Secondary lunch will increase 45 cents to $2.35. w Adult breakfast will go up 10 cents to $1.75. w Adult lunch will go up 25 cents to $3. w Milk will increase 10 cents to 35 cents.


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