May 30, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The budget outlook has grown bleaker for the Imbler School District.

The Imbler School Board voted Thursday to cut a total of 3.5 teaching and staff positions in order to balance the budget for 2002-03.

The board will not make its latest round of cuts official until late June. Board members are hoping that the Legislature will restore some of the money school districts lost because of the failure of Ballot Measure 13 in the May 21 election.

The board voted to cut two halftime high school teaching positions, a half-time music teaching position, a full-time custodian position, a full-time librarian position, a halftime special education assistant position and all junior high coaches.

The reductions will save the district $161,000.

Imbler Superintendent Larry Glaze said that trimming the budget has been an agonizing process.

"It is excruciating to tell people that they are out of a job,'' Glaze said.

The cuts the board made Thursday are in addition to previous staff reductions made earlier this year. The board had cut three instructional assistants plus a half-time high school teaching position. These cuts were necessary because of rising operating expenses.

The cuts the school board made this week are necessary because of the failure of Measure 13, which would have converted the state's education endowment fund into a rainy day fund that could be used for school operating expenses. Money from the education endowment fund, which has more than $200 million in it, can only be used for capital construction and scholarships.

Glaze said the cuts made this year will negatively impact the education that students receive. "Students will receive fewer services and less one-on-one attention because of the changes.'' Glaze said.

The reduction of the music position means the school district's music program will be reduced to .5 of a teaching position.

Cutting the librarian position will leave the school district without someone to operate its library full-time.

"It will not be nearly as efficient or as organized as it has been,'' Glaze said.

The library will be operated by the person who is now the school district's technology manager. The individual will devote half time to each position. Glaze said this means that the school district's technology system will not operate as efficiently.

Cutting the custodial position will leave the district with two custodians plus a maintenance and bus supervisor.

"Buildings will be cleaned less,'' Glaze said.

The cuts the Imbler district is making this year come on top of personnel reductions made a year ago. Last spring the district cut 1.5 teaching positions and a bus driver and reduced a dish washing position by two thirds to deal with a $111,000 budget shortfall.