Superintendent's Message, Oct. 25, 2018

  • Dr. Cohn
    Dear friends and neighbors:
    Financial stewardship
    Everett Public Schools has a long record of strong financial management. This fall, we are honored to have once again been awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the Association of School Business Officials International. Only three other school districts in Washington earned the award this year.
    In addition, Everett Public Schools has earned one of the highest bond ratings in the state for public schools. Moody’s upgraded the district’s rating in 2016 from Aa2 to Aa1. This September, Standard and Poor’s affirmed their AA+/stable long-term credit rating of the district. Great ratings translate into better interest rates which equals savings for taxpayers.

    Superior financial stewardship is cumulative. It is built over the long haul, and allows the district to continue to spend more money on teaching and teaching support (teachers, paraeducators, teacher-librarians, supplies, health services, etc.) than most school districts our size. For example, in 2016-17 the district spent 73.5 percent of its budget on teaching in 2016-17 compared to the average of 71.4 percent.

    Budget challenges
    This exceptional financial management prepared us well as we face new budget challenges this year. Although the Legislature provided extra funding for school employee compensation this year through the McCleary decision, legislators also reduced the amount school districts could collect through the local operating levy. This reduction, if not fixed in the upcoming legislative session, will result in a significant shortfall in the district’s 2019-20 budget. The shortfall will make it necessary to develop some aggressive budget cuts this spring, as we have been seeing in other Washington school districts. Until we know what the Legislature does this winter, it will be hard to know what the district’s exact budget shortfall will be.   

    The school board and I are advocating with legislators, and I will provide you further updates as new developments occur. The school board’s legislative priorities are:
    • Modify the levy cap, which was reduced by the legislature to $1,500 per student from the voter-approved $2,500.
    • Reinstate a statewide salary mix factor to fairly fund basic education salaries based upon teacher experience and education.
    • Fully fund special education by increasing the per-student funding and reducing the threshold to access safety net funding.
    • Fully fund the new School Employees Benefit Board (SEBB) system, which is scheduled to take over benefits administration in January 2020. 

    These McCleary-related “fixes” are essential for school districts to avoid substantial budget reductions going into next year and the year following. Stay tuned for more budget information as it is available. Thank you for your support of Everett Public Schools. 

    Gary Cohn, Superintendent