By Susan Schell, Staff Writer

The Brookings-Harbor School Board appeared stunned Monday upon learning the district could be facing a possible $775,352 deficit for the 2002-03 school year if it doesn?t curtail spending.

The bombshell was dropped by district Business Manger Valerie Shapton, who gave a summary report on the revenues and expenses for next year?s school budget.

However, District Superintendent Paul Prevenas said, ?The administration has a plan that will match revenues and expenditures to balance this out, so we won?t have to lay off staff this year.?

Board members squirmed in their seats as Prevenas tried to explain the cause of the deficit situation.

The overall interest rates were much higher last year, and this year the district would lose an estimated $100,000 in interest revenue starting this month, he said.

Secondly, the state allots each school district with a certain amount of money depending upon student enrollment.

This year, the state took back $250,000 from the district?s budget because of a previous overpayment.

?We had a dip in enrollment two years ago,? Prevenas said. ?It?s taken the state this long to figure out that they overpaid us.?

Prevenas also said the state was moving state aid payments around in a ploy he described as ?accounting gimmicks.?

He stated that at this point, the district did not know exactly what they would receive from the state for the next school year, but pointed out that every district in the state was suffering and ?other districts are in worse shape than us.

?We plan to (deal with) the loss in revenues without a reduction in staff for the remainder of the year. But we are facing revenue shortfalls, which will only get worse.?

The board discussed the possibility of cutting the number of school days next year to save on salary costs.

Prevenas warned that although teachers may initially be excited about the shortened school sessions, they would also be taking a cut in pay.

Cutting the school year could save the district an estimated $40,000 per day in salary costs.

The superintendent explained that there may also be significant cuts in supplies, field trips and extracurricular activities.

Board member Larry Anderson said, ?I knew this was going to happen, but not right now. The staff understands that the revenue stream has been black since 1994, and the budget is tied to salary schedules. The day of reckoning has come sooner than expected.?

He stated the board needed much more input from district staff,and that staff should be ?part of the process of solving this issue.?

?Unless someone discovers gold,? Anderson continued, ?we?re not going to balance this budget by cutting popsicles on Thursday.?

Board Chairman Brian Larsson agreed.

?We have some difficult decisions before us. We need more input.?

Board member Bill Ferry asked the administration when they learned of the state budget situation.

Prevenas answered that they received a note from the state before the Christmas break.

See Budget, Page 3A