District budget reductions despite legislative outcomes | Superintendent's Corner
Last updated 5/10/2023 at 11:40am
The last couple of months, I’ve shared with you the district’s budget situation.
As we’ve gathered more information about the current year’s budget needs and closer estimates of student enrollment expected this fall, we know we must cut nearly $24 million from next year’s budget. The community engagement reports as well as the contributing factors to the budget shortfall are available at bit.ly/3ZW67b2 if you’d like more detail.
District budget reductions
The plan presented and adopted by the school board (https://bit.ly/3LEZ0Ov) in April addresses the budget shortfall that our district along with many districts throughout the state are experiencing. The budget cuts needed to maintain the minimum required fund balance and continue the district’s fiscal stability will impact nearly every part of the district. From administration to department support to school support, the cuts will be felt districtwide. We prioritized students and their academic and enrichment experiences wherever possible.
This is a very difficult situation, and we are making some heart-wrenching decisions that don’t reflect what we want, but what must be done for the organization to continue operating. Over 100 positions must be cut, but we anticipate resignations and retirements will absorb about half of those reductions. We are very aware that each position has a face, name, and livelihood attached to it and we feel the impact of each staff person who receives a notice this spring.
As with many other districts and corporations experiencing layoffs currently, our entire region is feeling the impacts in multiple ways. It’s been a very long time since Mukilteo School District has had such significant cuts and it’s a painful process. However, I am optimistic that we will get through this as we have done through other challenging circumstances.
Legislative impacts to the district
Now that the Legislature has wrapped up their session, we have more solid information of how their decisions impact Mukilteo School
District. We were hopeful the prototypical staffing model and regionalization amount would be addressed, but they were not fixed this year. That means the district still pays more staff and at a higher wage than what it receives from the state. However, there were some “wins” for public education, some of which directly affect our district.
One decision we’re excited about is that the special education cap was raised from 13.5% to 15%. The multiplier was also raised a little bit, which means the funding we receive for each student receiving special services will go up. While that helps districts provide services for more students who qualify for special services, it will not cover the full costs of staffing and services actually provided for students. However, this is still positive progress.
All students who take College in the High School courses will have test fees waived, which will remove financial barriers for students earning college credits while in high school.
The Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) will receive more funding and there was some advancement in offering free school meals for more students. We may not be able to qualify all schools in the district for free meals, but we are getting closer.
Another outcome from the legislative session was an adjustment to staff pension contribution rates. School employee pensions are administered by the state and the district contributes a percentage of employee pay to the state pool. After analyzing the state pension liability, the Legislature elected to decrease the amount the district must contribute to staff pensions next year.
You might wonder if these legislative outcomes will allow the district to hire back staff or bring back operational items cut in the budget reductions. Sadly, they will not change the district’s budget situation significantly enough to reverse staffing or program reductions. Even though the Legislature approved a total of $2.9 billion for school operating costs statewide, 90% of that amount was promised to school districts and already factored into the district’s budget and subsequent reductions. We appreciate the additional funding which will help but not resolve the current budget situation.