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Wednesday, November 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Education

Despite more state money, Spokane Public Schools plans to lay off employees

UPDATED: Thu., May 2, 2019

Spokane teacher mingle before the ratification vote for Spokane Public Schools on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash. The numbers aren’t yet fully crunched, but Spokane Public Schools officials are hopeful that new money from the just-concluded legislative session will help ease a projected $31 million budget deficit next year. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane teacher mingle before the ratification vote for Spokane Public Schools on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash. The numbers aren’t yet fully crunched, but Spokane Public Schools officials are hopeful that new money from the just-concluded legislative session will help ease a projected $31 million budget deficit next year. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The numbers aren’t yet fully crunched, but Spokane Public Schools officials are hopeful that new money from the just-concluded legislative session will help ease a projected $31 million budget deficit next year.

However, even that added revenue would likely not save many of the 182 certificated employees who were given layoff notifications on April 11.

Classified staff will receive layoff notices on Thursday.

“The money we received from the Legislature has helped us close that gap,” Linda McDermott, the district’s chief financial officer, said during a marathon board meeting on Wednesday that ran until almost 10 p.m.

All told, the district could receive $9.8 million in added revenue as a result of legislative action.

But the district still calculates that $22.6 million in reductions are needed.

To find that money, the district has proposed cuts, mostly in personnel, which were presented in detail Wednesday night.

The board has until August to finalize the budget.

The biggest line item is school staffing. The district has plans to lay off 139 full-time employees for a savings of $14.1 million.

In the process, K-3 staffing ratios were adjusted to meet K-3 compliance, while class sizes for grades 4-6 will grow.

Other line-item cuts include $4.6 million in school support services and the loss of 51 employees. Affected departments would include support services, budget and accounting, payroll, campus security, facility services, health services, long-range planning, print shop, purchasing and safety.

Another major cut would be 34 special-education jobs for a savings of $2.4 million.

The impact would be a slight increase in those caseloads at all grade levels.

Another $648,000 – and 6.75 jobs – are earmarked to be cut at alternative schools and programs: Eagle Peak, Innovative Programs, the Libby Center, On Track Academy, Spokane Public Montessori, Spokane Virtual and Blended Learning, the Community School and the Enrichment Cooperative.

Of the $9.8 million in added revenue from the Legislature, $4.8 million comes from the “Hold Harmless” bill, (HB 2163), which addresses differences in general operations funding per student. Another $3.8 million could be generated from the Legislature’s decision to raise local levy authorization limits from $1.50 per thousand to $2.50.

Without voter approvel the district can collect $3.8 million more from it’s levy. The district has a levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of taxable property value, which could increase to $1.71 without seeking voter approval. The Legislature decided to allow districts to increase their rates up to $2.50 if voters agree.

Spokane Public Schools didn’t lobby for the increase, but officials have not said if they are willing to ask voters for higher taxes.

The school board would have to ask voters to authorize anything beyond the current voter-approved capacity.

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