Superintendent's Message, Nov. 7, 2018

  • Dr. Cohn
    Dear friends and neighbors: 

    My Oct. 25 message gave you a glimpse into the budget challenges we are preparing to face next year. To reiterate key themes from that message, until we know what the Legislature does this winter, it will be hard to know the extent of the district’s shortfall. Here’s what we do know at this time: 

    Although the Legislature provided more funding for school employee compensation this year to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, legislators also reduced the amount school districts can collect through the local operating levy. The Legislature also underfunded vital programs like special education, which therefore must continue to rely on local levies. Several surrounding school districts have already started announcing their plans for budget cuts as a result. 

    Our district may need to cut the 2019-20 budget by 2 percent – or approximately $6.5 million. The following year, 2020-21, the cut could be an additional $11.5 million. The reductions are necessary to work within our estimated state and federal and local funding.

    Reducing a budget by $6.5 million for 2019-20 could affect entire programs and may well include layoffs, although at this time we are not certain how many positions might be affected. If layoffs are necessary, the district will work with affected staff to ensure we provide notice as early as we reasonably can do so. Of course, substantial reductions could come through attrition and by eliminating vacant positions.

    Legislative priorities
    While the district continues to work on meeting budget with the current funding challenge, the school board and continue to hold conversations with our legislators. We are advocating for equitable and consistent funding for all Washington schools. Our 2019 legislative priorities highlights the areas the board feels need be addressed by the Legislature early this session.

    These “fixes” are essential for school districts to avoid substantial budget reductions. When the legislative session comes to an end in April 2019, we should know far more clearly the amounts we need to cut for the next several years. 

    Gary Cohn, Superintendent