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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Central Valley may cut 60 teaching and classroom jobs as part of budget shortfall

The Central Valley School District may eliminate about 60 teaching and other classroom staff positions next year as administrators deal with a projected $12 million budget shortfall.

The reductions will occur through attrition and nonrenewal of contracts of some provisional teachers.

The district did not offer a breakdown on how many provisional teachers – those with less than three years’ experience – would be laid off. Nor did it provide details regarding which programs might be at risk in Spokane County’s second-largest school district.

In the meantime, employees at risk of losing their jobs met earlier this week, one-on-one with supervisors and a union representative of the Central Valley Education Association, according to Superintendent Ben Small.

“One of the things that we are trying to do is have a personal touch with every employee,” Small said Friday.

Like every district in the state, Central Valley is struggling with the complexities of the so-called McCleary fix, which capped how much in property taxes could be collected through local levies.

And like many districts, Central Valley approved salary increases last summer for teachers and other staff, but that represents only a portion of the shortfall.

The state is underfunding special education but also mandating an expensive statewide health plan for all employees, even those who work part time.

That alone could cost the district more than $2 million.

“This is our first year of dealing with the complexities of the McCleary fix,” Small said. “We’re looking at staffing differently.”

It’s unclear when the board will make a final decision. Its next scheduled meeting is May 13.

School board president Tom Dingus referred questions to district spokeswoman Marla Nunberg, who said that while the district is “attempting to be as transparent as possible,” it didn’t want to “unnecessarily scare anyone” with layoff notices while there’s still a chance of additional funding from the Legislature.

“There’s a number of things that we are considering,” said Nunberg, who added that reductions in classified staff will be announced later. “We’re trying to do this in a very precisional manner.”

The district went into action after the school board adopted a resolution on April 8 declaring a financial emergency.

Small prepared a budget accounting for the deficit and presented it to the board on Monday, along with a general list of “proposed budget actions.” They included:

  • A restructuring of building and district administration to save $1 million while maintaining a focus on district priorities, including teacher evaluation and completion of bond projects.
  • Finding $1 million in savings within the building and department budgets.
  • Adjusting staffing in departments and programs.
  • Reducing teaching staff to “get us to a sustainable range of the prototypical school model.”
  • Reevaluating classified staff position ahead to implementation on Jan. 1, 2020, of an expensive statewide health plan, known as SEBB.

Small also proposed to “reexamine the program goals and funds” for Central Valley’s Learning Assistance Programs, or LAP, which serves the district’s elementary schools.