On Tuesday May 14, a vote was taken by the Edmonds School Board to approve a reduction in force and notify (as required by law and to honor our collective bargaining agreement) 25.2 certificated staff of the possibility their positions may be eliminated in the 19-20 school year. It was an excruciating decision because every person affected causes a ripple effect in the classroom and our community. This is the worst-case scenario and the final budget discussions are continuing now until final adoption in August.
The Edmonds School District is facing unprecedented times in school funding which has been years in the making of the McCleary “fix.” Of the recent $17.5 million shortfall, $7.5 million (43%) can be attributed to the negotiated contract increases to staff salaries and benefits payable next school year. The district employs over 3,600 certificated and classified staff with 13 different union bargaining groups — and with 88% of our budget going to pay salaries and benefits, it’s nearly impossible to make up a budget shortfall without affecting staff.
Many have asked if the negotiated teacher raises were sustainable given the shortfall we are facing. The teacher raises are only a fraction of the equation, and not the only reason why we are facing a shortfall. It is important to note that this is an extremely volatile time in school funding for all districts. Compounding the problem is the reductions to local levy collections allowable ($6.2 million) the increased cost to consolidate state employee benefits ($1.5 million) and reduction in funding for K-3 ($1.25 million). We were expecting the Legislature to amply fund our most vulnerable Special Ed students. This did not occur and adds $5 million to the problem. An unintended consequence of the teacher pay raises is the reduction in the number of teacher retirements, which are down about 50% from past years.
Usually the fund balance (or savings account) can help weather the storm(s). However, this account has been depleted over the years and is now less than the projected target of 4%. The good news is that when the fund balance was burgeoning, the extra monies were spent to protect our class sizes, which thankfully, are still the lowest in the region.
Please be assured that Superintendent McDuffy, her staff, the school board and others will be working very diligently to minimize the impact to our classrooms. We are all committed to doing what’s best for student learning while also being responsible fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Edmonds School Board