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

School board set to adopt budget that includes large cuts in staff

Capping a summer of conversation and revision, the Spokane Public Schools board of directors is poised to adopt a $461 million balanced budget for the upcoming school year.

A final vote is expected at Wednesday night’s board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend and comment, though the board appeared to reach a consensus during a work session held last week.

The budget is a reflection of changes in the state funding model following the landmark McCleary court decision, which led to large cuts at almost every district in the state.

However, Superintendent Shelley Redinger said Tuesday that the staff “worked hard to minimize impacts to the classroom, especially class size.”

“That’s something we feel really good about,” said Redinger, who added that the recent changes will allow the district to keep some funds in reserve to deal with “hotspots,” or classes that are larger than expected.

However, the district will see “some increases in combination classes and staff-to-student ratios in grades 4-12,” according to a document released Monday.

The district had only 18 combo classes last year. That number is projected at 60 this year.

However, last week, the board agreed in principle to add $2.9 million to the budget from its reserves while still keeping those reserves above 5% of the total budget.

That money would fund 10 full-time equivalent teachers to reduce the number of combo classrooms in elementary schools; alleviate overcrowding at a handful of selected schools; restore seven custodial positions; fund after-school activities to compensate for early elementary school dismissal on Fridays; and restore building budgets to last year’s levels.

The budget was balanced without resorting to a supplemental levy, which the board had considered last spring.

Of the $461 million, 85% is earmarked for salaries and benefits, 9.8% for purchased services, such as transportation, and 4.8% for supplies and materials.

Broken down by program, about 57.8% goes toward basic and vocational education, 13.8% for special education and 7.8% for Title 1 and the Learning Assistance Program.

The rest is earmarked for federal and state special programs, community services and other instructional programs.

In compliance with a new state law, the new budget also includes a four-year projection.

Current preliminary forecasts show a cumulative deficit of $36.9 million by the end of 2022-23. However, the document states that “significant improvement has been made compared to last year’s adopted four-year forecast.”

The district also believes that “adopted forecasts will change and most likely improve as additional information becomes available.”

By law, the district must submit a budge to the state superintendent by Aug. 30.