Early input could avoid last year's contentious process. Online survey will be open from Friday, Nov. 2, to Friday, Nov. 9.

Reynolds School District is seeking community input on budget goals with public meetings held earlier than usual after a storm of vocal protests by teachers and community members during last year's budgeting process.

"This is new this year," said Stephanie Field, Reynolds' director of communications and community relations.

She said the new budgeting input sessions were scheduled "due to the feedback from the public and staff from last year that the public and staff wanted to be more involved."

Reynolds will have two meetings to hear the concerns and ideas of the community. The first is from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Wilkes Elementary School, 17010 N.E. Wilkes Road.

The second meeting will be from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at Reynolds Middle School, 1200 N.E. 201st Ave.

Child care, snacks and interpreters will be provided at both sessions.

Those who can't attend the meetings may participate online. Reynolds will post a video of the first meeting online, and folks will be able to watch it and take a survey on their thoughts and concerns on the budget for the 2019-20 school year. The online survey will be open from Friday, Nov. 2, to Friday, Nov. 9.

"These are going to be collaborative and interactive sessions," Field said.

The district wants to know the community's general budget priorities. If available money from the state is cut, would people rather see days cut or staff layoffs? If more money is disbursed to the districts, would the community like to see more counselors added or new science books.

People might offer opinions on an appropriate class size in different grades.

The district does not expect to provide any estimates of how much money will be available to the district.

"This is an opportunity for our community to learn about the budgeting process and learn that they have a voice in this," Field said.

These opportunities for public comment come ahead of what was scheduled on a budget calendar adopted earlier. Internal and external listening sessions originally were scheduled for January through March.

A Budget Committee will be selected and the first committee meetings are scheduled for May.

The school board is scheduled to adopt the budget June 12, 2019.

Last year Reynolds teachers and some community members turned out in force after the district said it faced a $4.3 million shortfall and might cut as many as 38 teaching positions to balance the books. Last year was the third year Reynolds faced budget cuts.

A big complaint of the teachers and community members last year was that they were not informed about the substantial budget gap and given sufficient opportunity to make their suggestions about how to close it.

Field said "our board is really excited to hear what the community wants."

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