Edmonds School Board report: District facing $2.1 million shortfall due to enrollment decline

By Florine Gingerich

The Edmonds School District is facing a budget shortfall of $2.1 million due to lower-than-expected student enrollment, the district’s director of business and finance told the Edmonds School Board during its regular meeting last week.

Marla Miller told the board during the Sept. 20 meeting that the district hopes to offset at least $1 million of this amount through spending cuts, with the balance coming from district reserves.

Each school district receives a fixed dollar amount per enrolled full-time student, which is calculated by state law on the fourth day of the school year. The problem arises because the district, as required by the state, projected enrollment for this school year in January and February. The district must then, by law, determine the required number of teachers and contract with those teachers in the spring.

The estimate was based on the number of students at the time, adjusted based on historical projections. The district also brings in a demographer every few years to comment on its methodology. This year’s estimate was farther off than has been the case in the past. It is not clear why, though anecdotal evidence suggests families who lost jobs and homes may have moved out of the district to less-expensive areas.

Had the exact number of students been known in the spring, the district would have adjusted by hiring fewer teachers, but once the contracts have been signed that number cannot be changed. The district can, however, save several hundred thousand dollars by leaving vacant certain positions that have not been filled. The administration is exploring other options as well. Funds that come out of reserves will be repaid from the first available discretionary funds next year.

In better news, Miller and Ed Peters, Capital Projects Director, discussed the new Meadowdale Middle School. The softball field still has to be developed, but the building itself is open and functioning well. Some classrooms are too warm on hot days, so the HVAC system is being reprogrammed. Public address system volumes are uneven and this will also be addressed.

At the second reading of the replacement capital improvement and technology levy, Director Gary Noble asked for clarification of the technology components. It was explained that the levy will pay for replacing technology the district has today such as office staff computers, licenses, projectors and cameras, computer labs and mobile carts. The capital improvement component will fund replacement roofs, as well as traffic improvements to make drop-offs and pick-ups safer. The board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing submission of the levy to voters next Feb. 14.

Mark Madison, director of career and technical education, reported on the STEM goals for the school year. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) provides a project-based approach that can serve as an elective class or — for students falling behind in math — a required math support class. The STEM labs follow the sequence and timing of regular math classes, and reinforce the math class skills with the goal of improving learning for students who are at risk of failing to meet state math requirements.

STEM programs are now operating at all four of the district’s middle schools. Madison showed slides of the College Place lab, which has been created in what was a weight room. By salvaging tables, stools and cabinets from the old Meadowdale Middle School, the district was able to spend more money on equipment.

Next year, the program’s goals include designing an algebra support program at the high schools and, as possible, moving forward to begin implementing a geometry support program. Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood high schools currently have STEM labs for which upgrades will be needed. At Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale, labs must be created. The anticipated cost is $250,000. Madison and his department will be looking for revenue sources, including grants, corporate contributions and other community investment sources.

Bill Henning reported on the Summer Support Program, instituted this past summer to improve math skills. (See the related My Edmonds News story here.) He was joined by Jenny, a student participant, and her mother. The first day Jenny attended, said Henning, she announced that she hated math and had brought other things to do. She stuck with the program, however, and while she ended last year with a D in math, this year she is getting straight A’.

The district housed the program, which was free to students. Volunteers, including students from Edmonds-Woodway and Mountlake Terrace high schools, provided coaching. The curriculum included Khan Academy online tutorials and exercises, small group problem-solving and — for some participants — flash cards. Students in fourth through 12th grades participated, in two-week segments for two hours a day. Some students expressed the hope that the program can continue as an after-school activity, and the district is exploring this idea.

The board also celebrated Peter Schurck, the new assistant principal at Mountlake Terrace High School. Fran McGregor, president of the Washington State Air Force Association, presented Schurck with Seattle Chapter and State Teacher of the Year awards. The award is given to recognize a teacher’s efforts in preparing students to meet aerospace technology challenges of the future.

Board members thanked the newly chosen student advisors to the board, who were sworn in during the meeting and participated with questions and observations. Board members were also appreciative of all the staff work undertaken to get the schools ready to begin classes, and acknowledged the honor paid to Schurck. Superintendent Nick Brossoit seconded the appreciation for the student advisors, and to staff who prepared for school opening. He noted that an upcoming community meeting will focus on the replacement levy and recent improvement in SAT scores.

Florine Gingerich

My Edmonds New school board contributor Florine Gingerich has a son who attended Edmonds public schools, where she volunteered in roles ranging from pouring juice in kindergarten at Madrona K-8 to serving as president of the Edmonds-Woodway Music Boosters. With her husband, Doug Purcell, she practices law at Purcell & Adams, PLLC, a South County firm emphasizing business law, real estate and estate planning. Visit them at purcelladams.com, or contact her at fgingerich@purcelladams.com.



  1. The delusional Edmonds educators are at it again…greed greed greed.

    We need larger class sizes; fewer teachers; no teachers’ unions; and FEWER SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS!!

    Property values are falling; skyrocketing job loss in the private sector; and runaway INFLATION!!

    There have already been 2 EDUCATION LEVIES approved in the past year…enough is enough!!!

    ✄Cut✄Cut✄ the FREAKIN’ EDUCATION BUDGET Cut✄Cut✄✄Cut✄Cut✄

    A tapped and fed-up property owner!!

    -Donald Williams

  2. So the Edmonds School District has fewer students but needs more money? I could use more money myself but having not received it, I have adjusted my budget. I would suggest the Edmonds School District do the same.

  3. The school district is NOT asking for more money. They are announcing that they are receiving less money this year than projected. They are cutting spending. They prudently created reserves so they could handle the situation, showing fiscal responsibility.

    I think the above comments show that perhaps we should be spending more money on teaching reading comprehension.

  4. Fiscal responsibility would be cutting the budget by 2.1 mil and not dipping into the reserves. But like many other things, everyone gets to have an opinion.

  5. If they are receiving $2.1 million less because of lower enrollment then they should be able to cut $2.1 million that was associated with educating those students. Dollar for dollar allocation associated with student count would be fiscally responsible. Of course, the District doesn’t care about fiscal responsibility. They care about keeping as many people sucking on the government tit as they can so they can claim poverty and say they need more money for the classroom when they, in fact, they waste an enormous amount of money on nonclassroom overhead and administration. Let’s ask the question why an entity that taxes us should have any significant reserves to begin with? To create the reserve they have over taxed us in years past when dollar for dollar allocation would be far more responsible.

    Joe apparently believe that if you put something in bold it makes your post correct. Real life doesn’t work that way. I think Joe’s snarky post above demonstrates that perhaps he needs to stop drinking the liberal tax and spend Kool Aid.

  6. Tom & Scott – did you actually read the article, or did you just stop with the headline? When the District found out in August that they’ve got fewer students, they couldn’t simply cut 10% of the heat for a school, and drop the janitor’s pay by 10%, etc. They have fixed costs that cannot by cut at the drop of a hat. Private sector companies deal with the same reality.

    In your world, the students would simply get a lesser education. That’s not acceptable to me. But I’m not sure why I’m bothering to say any of this. The article made it perfectly clear. You either cannot or will not understand it.

    As to my items in bold, the first two are factually correct. I bolded them to correct the errors in the first two comments. As to whether the district was fiscally responsible in this matter, I’ll grant you that it’s a matter of opinion and mine differs from yours. And just to show you that I know bolding something does not make it correct, I bolded your names.

  7. Joe, what part of the 2.1 Mil deficit could not be reduced from the budget? Do you really think a school district should have reserve funds at tax payer expense? When the reserve fund has been depleted, should we the tax payers approve another levy?Where is the accountability?

    Do you think the students will return in 2012 or 2013 in an aging community with declining tax revenue?

    Private companies project and do it very well, unlike cities and school districts.

    Lesser education is not my agenda, less government at a reasonable price are.

  8. The District does not appear to have a great number of choices at this point, due to state law and contract requirements. We can all armchair quarterback it and say inconsequential things that we would cut if we had the gavel, but the fact of the matter is, the majority of the budget, by FAR, is teacher pay. By over estimating enrollment, the District contracted too many teachers, and is now stuck with them,

    Cutting elsewhere is already happening, but remember that these cuts can only come from the sliver of the budget that is not teacher pay. Our laws and contracts are clearly not well aligned with reality, and our methods for estimating enrollment need improvement. Let’s get busy fixing these root causes, vice grumbling about the outputs from a broken system.

  9. Joe –

    Your analysis of the situation is so juvenile in your understanding of budgeting and economics that I wonder if you are actually attempting to make a mockery of the classic liberal tax and spend agenda. Maybe you are so clever you have fooled the rest of us.

    I’ll assume not so I will point out that in budgeting you begin with saying I’m going to have to spend X to accomplish a task, goal, mission, etc. In this case there is a per pupil allocation. When fewer pupils show up then you don’t need your originally budgeted amount and you cut the associated staffing and expenses. It really is that simple. I’ve done it in the private sector and I’ve done it with my checkbook at home. No reason why the school district can’t do it as well.

    Any one who is well read on the subject of public education (start with John Taylor Gatto – two time NY teacher of the year who abrutly quit because he couldn’t stand to be part of a system that did more harm then good) and who has taken the time to examine the school district’s finances would know that they waste an enormous amount of money on noninstructional expenses.

    Todd makes the point in #9 that the district serves the teacher’s union first. That is what needs to change if we are going to see real improvement in our public education system.

  10. As a mother of two school aged children, I know for a fact that teacher have taken a pay cut. How? I attended curriculum night and this was explained to us. I believe the school district is doing all it can do within its constraints.

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