Spokane schools are facing a $5.6 million budget shortfall this school year. The shortfall, according to Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger is due to the Spokane Education Association’s threatened strike at the beginning of the school year.
“We had a budget that was all ready to go,” district spokesman Kevin Morrison said. “Well, it was obviously not sufficient.”
The board is reviewing the budget line by line for cuts with minimal affect on students and staff.
Jenny Rose, president of the SEA, said the district has misplaced the blame.
“If you didn’t think you had the money, why did you agree to the tentative agreement?” Rose said. “That really makes me sad, because I know of no other school district that comes out of a bargain and then blames their union.”
Redinger said the district will have to trim some purchases made on behalf of the staff as part of its effort to spend less.
Although the original budget included some pay increases for school staff, the money didn’t meet union demands, Redinger said. During the negotiations with the union, the school board agreed to give more money in an effort to avoid a strike. That means money first allocated toward other programs has to instead be put toward compensation, Redinger said.
“There is no fat in our budget,” Morrison said. “Any fat that they see is obviously going to be going away with some of these line items.”
For example the district currently pays for students’ SAT test fees. That’s something that could be cut, Morrison said. The price of school lunch could increase as well as the cost of before and after school care, Redinger said. Those increases could happen as early as November. Final budget decisions would be made around October 14, she said.
“We love our employees,” Redinger said. “We want to pay them well, but again we have to make sure the lights are on.”
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