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Bellevue School District hears more thoughts on budget cuts

A crowd filled the Sammamish High cafeteria beyond capacity Thursday night as the Bellevue School District held a forum on budget cuts. - Joshua Adam Hicks/Bellevue Reporter
A crowd filled the Sammamish High cafeteria beyond capacity Thursday night as the Bellevue School District held a forum on budget cuts.
— image credit: Joshua Adam Hicks/Bellevue Reporter

Contact your legislators.

Parents and teachers alike repeated that message Thursday night during a forum on potential budget cuts for the Bellevue School District, which is facing a deficit of $4 million to $6 million.

Audience members filled the Sammamish High cafeteria beyond capacity, voicing concerns about the future of various programs that may end up on the chopping block.

The district has published a survey that asks residents to identify their preferred cuts from a list of 39 items ranging from administrative positions and teachers to elementary art and winter athletic programs.

Members of the audience picked on nearly all the proposals, but sports dominated the first half of the conversation.

A panel of district representatives divided the meeting in two at one point, sending roughly half the audience off to talk athletics while those remaining discussed other topics.

Many parents, students, and coaches complained that the district had singled out winter sports for termination, and they wanted to know why.

Bellevue schools Superintendent Amalia Cudeiro explained that the district targeted those programs because some of them – golf and swimming – require money for non-school facilities, while others like wrestling and gymnastics draw the least enrollment.

School board member Chris Marks added: "We're not saying we're cutting these things, we're saying these are the options."

Moments later, Bellevue High swim team member Geoffrey Stokes pointed out the number of students who could be affected by cuts to winter athletics.

"Would you call 700-some odd people a small number?" he asked.

Marks told Stokes: "You don't listen to me any more than my children do."

That comment drew jeers from the crowd, and one parent accused Marks of trying to cut Stokes down.

Marks later told The Reporter that she was making light of the repetitive talk about sports.

"I didn't mean to insult anyone," she said. "It was the wrong place to try to inject levity."

Several teachers at the forum spoke out against a proposed halving of elementary art, music and physical-education teaching positions designed to save the district $1.28 million.

Others railed against cutting elementary librarians and fifth-grade band and orchestra teachers to save a combined $1.38 million.

Marks said after the meeting that residents should write their legislators if they want to avoid cuts.

The state legislature is considering a bill that would lift the state's schools-levy lid by 4 percent, allowing district's to collect more money from local taxpayers.

But levies are a sore topic in many areas because they help property-rich districts more than the poorer ones.

Bellevue and other school districts were also grandfathered in with higher rates when the state last set a limit, making levy rules appear more unbalanced.

Another budget forum will take place March 24, 6-4 p.m. at Interlake High School (16245 NE 24th Street).

* Video of the forum is available from King 5 TV.

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