School district budget will plan for worst-case scenario

South Kitsap School District’s board of directors has until May 15 to inform the teachers union of any reductions in force.
But SKSD board president Kathryn Simpson said Wednesday night the Legislature might adjourn at the end of April without finishing its budget.
She said if that occurs, South Kitsap and other districts will not know what level of funding, such as levy equalizations, it will receive from the state.
Simpson said another possibility is that the Legislature does not adjourn, but is unable to finalize its budget by May 15.
In that scenario, she said the district would be allowed to give reduction-in-force notices one day after the Legislature adjourns.
Simpson said that would not be enough time to make adjustments.
“We’ll draft a budget that is a worst-case scenario,” SKSD superintendent Dave LaRose said.
It is the latest state-budget quandary that could impact schools. In December, the state House and Senate passed legislation expected to close most of Washington’s $1.1-billion shortfall.
Those cuts — combined with previous ones by Gov. Christine Gregoire — were expected to reduce the deficit by around $700 million.
That encompassed a $50 million reduction from public schools, which included the elimination of funding to keep class sizes smaller in kindergarten through fourth grade.
SKSD assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton said at the time that the state cuts could result in an immediate loss of $3 million for the district.
Simpson said she and her colleagues have met with politicians to remind them it is the state’s “paramount” duty to provide an adequate education for all children. SKSD is party to the class-action lawsuit against the state on those grounds now before the state Supreme Court.
“I think the Legislature is still seriously confused about what its paramount duty is,” Simpson said. “I don’t think they’re taking school boards seriously. I don’t think the governor is taking school boards seriously.”
Simpson recommended that the school board and district officials hold community forums to inform them of potential cuts and take suggestions.
LaRose agreed that locals must know the reasons behind possible reductions.
“Unprecedented action from the state has driven unprecedented action from us,” he said.
SKSD board member Keith Garton warned his colleagues that the state’s budget situation likely will not see significant improvement in the next year based on a recent presentation he saw from Arun Raha, Washington’s chief economist.
“It really looks like it will be more of the same,” he said. “It’s not like there’s going to be some rapid recovery.”

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