As state lawmakers spent the Easter Weekend working to close a half-billion dollar state budget shortfall, Snoqualmie Valley School District administrators and school board members contemplate how their budget shortfall will impact students and teachers next year.
SVSD is working to finalize its 2012-13 $56 million budget – a budget that needs about $1.2 million trimmed from it. The SVSD budget shortfall stems from three different areas. The first $450,000 of cuts are due to under enrollment. Washington State funds school districts on a per pupil basis. Next year’s enrollment growth is lower than projected which means less state money. The second $550,000 of cuts stem from the latest teachers union contract. Last year, Washington State mandated a 1.9% teacher salary reduction in order to balance its budget. SVSD did not implement that salary reduction on its teachers, which means it is now facing unfunded labor costs. The third $300,000 of needed cuts is categorized as “other.” These could stem from additional state cuts to education funding – known when its new budget is finalized – or from possible budget increases like the cost of gasoline.
There was also a shortfall in this year’s SVSD budget. That shortage was covered by drawing down the district’s reserve fund from $3.4 million to $2.6-$2.8 million. Administrators say they cannot continue to draw on the fund to solve next year’s shortfall, as the goal is to maintain its current level. Hence, tough budget cuts are needed. Over the past few years, SVSD made significant budget reductions by trimming administrative and maintenance costs. As there is little budget left in these areas to cut, teacher salaries are now being trimmed.
Eight FTE (full time equivalent) teacher layoffs will offset the first $450,000 in budget cuts. The hope is these eight salary reductions will come from retiring teachers and/or resignations. More layoffs (maybe an additional 8 FTE) are possible for the second $550,000 of needed cuts. What does this mean to education? It means regardless if the teacher salary reductions come from retirement, resignation or layoffs, SVSD could have 8-16 fewer teachers next year. The impact on education could show up in 1) larger class size because fewer teachers are instructing the same number of students; or 2) in a possible loss of programming because teachers who instruct specific courses were laid off.
The district held an E-Meeting on March 29th to detail the potential budget cuts. In a school board work session this Thursday, April 12th, at 6PM, (prior to the regular school board meeting) SVSD administration will submit its Expenditure Reduction Plan. There will be time for citizen comment regarding the plan during the 7:30PM school board meeting. The following morning, the plan will be shared on the district’s website, along with a link so residents can share comments on the proposed reductions with board members. The board will most likely vote on the reduction plan at its April 26th meeting. The SVSD School Board usually approves the yearly budget in July, but teacher layoff notices must be issued by May 15th per union contract.
Budget cuts are hard. Teacher layoffs are never easy. A loss of teachers impacts education. Curriculum, STEM and Freshman Learning Centers are funded by budgets. I heard it stated recently that SVSD can’t afford to run a FLC and three middle schools. An additional pragmatic point might be, can it afford the FLC and two middle schools? There are funding concepts to consider: increased transportation costs from longer bus routes and potential shuttles between the FLC and MSHS; increased utility costs at CKMS and TFMS; increased staffing for lunch rooms and offices potentially serving 25-75% more middle school students; CKMS might need an assistant principal as TFMS has currently has one. SVSD will have the same number of buildings, but two of those buildings will be enlarged by portables and house more students. More students equals more building overhead costs and more staffing needs. Great ideas and concepts are usually just that without funding to make them reality. As our district faces teacher layoffs next year and Washington State budget woes continue, what impact do future educational concepts have on the number of teachers in the classroom? Is losing more teachers a possibility when launching these concepts in 2013?