By Dave Fidlin


The Whitewater Unified School District might be in the final stretch of the unprecedented 2020-21 school year, but officials are already turning their attention toward the 2021-22 school year as budget planning picks up steam.

Superintendent Caroline Pate-Hefty and other WUSD officials discussed a series of funding requests at the School Board’s most recent regular meeting, held March 15.

A list of six big-ticket staff and program items are on the docket for the upcoming year. Most of the items reflect additional expenses, though there is a singular request in the mix that would result in cost cutting.

All told, Pate-Hefty and Business Manager Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson said the program and staffing requests could amount to a total of $60,500 in additional expenses, based on preliminary estimates.

On the subtraction side of the ledger, Pate-Hefty said she is recommending a reduced staffing allocation toward the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten — the result, she said, of enrollment declines.

“Our numbers have remained very low,” said Pate-Hefty, who indicated current average class sizes have hovered around 9.14 students. Long-range projections point to continued declines.

By trimming one 4K teacher from the district wide staff roster and not filling a currently vacated 4K paraprofessional position, Pate-Hefty said she anticipates the district saving $100,000.

On the other side of the ledger, Pate-Hefty is asking the School Board to consider refilling an administrative-level position that was scratched years ago as a cost-savings measure.

Unlike a number of neighboring districts, WUSD currently does not fund a director of buildings and grounds position to oversee day-to-day facilities, maintenance and upkeep needs at the various schools.

Sylvester-Knudtson has been overseeing the responsibility, alongside his budget duties, and Pate-Hefty said the scenario has resulted in strained resources in the budget and facilities areas of daily operations.

If approved, the director of buildings and grounds position could result in a $118,000 line item on WUSD’s expense ledger in the upcoming school year.

Other smaller ticket items on administrators’ wish lists this upcoming school year include increased funding for a curriculum and instruction administrative assistance to handle issues related to COVID-19, added funding for building leadership teams, an appropriation into the Ferradermis program and dollars allocated to a gardening program at Lincoln Elementary School.

District officials also are asking for three additional staff and program requests, totaling $76,000, that could be funded outside the district’s general operating budget. The list includes family and community engagement programs, increased funding into middle school athletics and an IT intern.

Pate-Hefty and Sylvester-Knudtson emphasized the dollar figures are tentative since WUSD still is in the preliminary stages of assembling the budget for the next school year.

The assumptions, Pate-Hefty said, include anticipated staff retirements and savings through attrition from more senior teachers and faculty.

“If these were not to occur, we’d come back to you to discuss this allotment,” Pate-Hefty said to the School Board.


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