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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Central Valley schools bracing for budget cuts and layoffs

Students walk to the buses at Central Valley High School on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Students walk to the buses at Central Valley High School on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Facing a projected $12 million budget deficit next year, the Central Valley School District is preparing for cuts in staffing and programs.

The second-largest district in Spokane County with an enrollment of 14,500, Central Valley will “work together with the School Board to identify ways to balance next year’s budget – with student learning at the forefront,” Superintendent Ben Small said in a statement released Tuesday.

Like other districts around the state, Central Valley is facing cuts after changes to the state’s new education funding model following the McCleary decision, which also led to significant pay raises last fall for teachers and other staff.

The district offered no timetable on when its board of directors would discuss possible cuts. The board’s next scheduled meeting is May 13.

“We will be presenting a modified education plan to the board that will include more details about the recommended cuts,” spokesperson Marla Nunberg said in an email Tuesday.

“Right now, they are at a broader detail as we continue through our plan,” Nunberg said.

The board adopted a resolution on April 8 declaring a financial emergency, directing Small to prepare a budget accounting for the deficit.

The school board heard initial budget action recommendations Monday night.

Small did not respond on Tuesday to repeated calls for comment on the recommendations and the severity of the proposed cuts.

However, if staff reductions correlate to those at Spokane Public Schools (325 layoff notices in the face of a $31 million deficit), Central Valley could perhaps be facing layoffs of about 100.

“Our guiding principle is to maintain as many direct services and engagement opportunities for students as possible,” Small said in the statement. “It is difficult to make cuts to programs that we know are all beneficial to our students.”

Wally Watson, president of the Central Valley Education Association, which represents teachers and other staff, declined to give a number on the projected staff cuts, but hoped to do so on Thursday.

In a Facebook post Monday night, Watson said, “There will be reductions across the district, all areas of the district. (Tuesday) starts the reduction of certificated staff.”

However, in the same post, Watson also praised the district’s initial approach to the cuts.

“I can tell you in all honesty that the district has done this surgically, with as much forethought as possible, as much compassion as possible, and at the lowest level of impact as possible,” Watson wrote.

“Does this make it any easier? The answer is no,” Watson added.

Like many other districts last summer, Central Valley approved sizable salary increases for teachers and other staff.

A teacher with 10 years’ experience and a master’s degree saw a salary increase from $59,213 to $69,457, or 17.2%.

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