The Lake Washington School District (LWSD) trustees voted unanimously — with the exception of Doug Eglington, who was absent — to approve superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 school year at Monday evening’s regular board meeting.
The $231.3 million general fund budget will go into effect Sept. 1 and reflects the $4.6 million funding cut from the state, which includes a 1.9 percent salary reduction for teachers and a $2.6 million cut to maintain small class sizes at the K-4 level.
To offset this reduction, LWSD officials plan to use district levy funds, extend the school year and make small staff reductions through attrition — not layoffs.
At the meeting, board president Jackie Pendergrass said she believes the state legislature has continued to make cuts because lawmakers believe school districts would make up the difference at the local level. While this has been true for LWSD, Pendergrass was not willing to let the legislature off the hook.
“They were counting on school districts,” she said. “It’s not something they can continue to count on.”
Kimball agreed, saying, “everyone is hurting” in the current economic climate but even when the economy is booming, educators are among the worse paid in the community.
“The legislature is hanging us out to dry,” he said at the meeting.
District officials said this is because school districts’ rainy day funds will eventually run out and districts will reach their levy caps on how much money they can ask for from taxpayers.
To address the teachers’ salary reductions — which just means a reduction in how much money the district receives from the state — Kimball said they worked with teachers to come up with a solution that includes teachers working two additional days. There will be an extra instructional day on June 21, 2012 — extending the school year calendar from 180 to 181 days and the last day of school to June 22 — and a teacher work day on May 25, the Friday before Memorial Day. This day had been a regular school day, but now students will not go to school and make up for it at the end of the year.
“Everyone came to the table with what I call a really nice compromise,” the superintendent said about the district’s negotiations with teachers.
Kimball said the two extra days will be dedicated to preparing for the district’s grade reconfiguration to a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 system in fall 2012. Students will get to visit the school they will attend the next year and for students who are not changing schools, Kimball said they will get to visit their next year’s classroom. On the teacher-only day, teachers will visit their school as well and get a chance to work with their new teams and plan for the next year.
“That’s pretty important work,” Kimball said.
He added that when the new grade configuration comes, half of the high school student population in the district will be new to their school. At the middle school level, it will be two-thirds new students.
Other district employee groups including administrators and secretaries, whose salaries have also been cut, have taken similar money-saving measures such as giving up a number of vacation days.
Another way LWSD is saving money and avoiding layoffs is reducing staff through attrition, meaning as teachers resigned or retired at the end of the school year, their positions have remained unfilled.
This, however, will mean K-4 class sizes will increase slightly. District officials said student-teacher ratios will increase by roughly one student per class. Kindergarten and first-grade staffing will change from 19-to-1 to 20-to-1; second- and third-grades will shift from 23.9-to-1 to 25-to-1; and fourth-grade will go from 25.12-to-1 to 26.75-to-1.
The proposed budget was first presented to the school board by business services coordinator Barbara Posthumus at the June 20 meeting. After the meeting, the budget was posted on the district’s website with an e-mail contact for public input, but Posthumus said they didn’t receive any emails from the public.
She added that in the weeks between the June meeting and Monday that there weren’t any major changes to the budget either. Posthumus said her team’s estimates on state revenue were off by about $20,000 when they received the final numbers. But when compared with an overall budget of $231.3 million, they just needed to do some minor tweaking.
“That’s a very small number,” Posthumus said.
She added that this adjustment did not affect any line items.
There was not much discussion about the budget during the board meeting, but it was because trustees have worked with and discussed the budget with Posthumus, Kimball and other district staff for months.
Pendergrass said the board has had several budget work sessions since January.