State budget effect on schools not yet known

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Feb 02, 2011

The signs of the season are everywhere. The days are getting longer, the football season is just about over and the crocuses are just beginning to bloom, which all point to one thing for those of us who work in the central office of the school district: It’s time to begin work on next year’s budget.

With the struggling economy and with state revenues continuing to plummet, the development of our budget has been a difficult process recently.

Two years ago, when state legislators were developing the budget for the 2009-11 biennium, they dealt with a deficit of what they thought would be $9.3 billion.

Then, as state revenues continued to fall, they had to amend the budget last year to fill another $2.8 billion deficit and they faced another deficit of more than $1 billion as 2010 was ending.

The state provides about 70 percent of the operating revenue for the Mukilteo School District.

Consequently, when the state cuts its budget, it has a large impact on our schools.

 During the past two years, we’ve had to reduce our budget by $6.2 million in 2009 and by another $3.6 million a year ago.

Because classroom instruction is our highest priority, we made those budget cuts without laying off teachers.

But, we did have to eliminate some valuable programs, such as extended-day educational programs for struggling students, elementary support teacher positions, professional development for teachers and seventh grade sports.

Now, it’s the season to begin the process again, and the picture isn’t looking much better than it has for the past two years.

The budget challenge this year comes in two parts. The first comes from the passing of the state’s supplemental budget, the effort by lawmakers to fill the $1 billion hole on the current budget.

Part of that supplemental budget was passed in December and the other part may have been passed by the Legislature by the time you read this article.

Fortunately, because of growing enrollment in Mukilteo schools and by using some of our fund balance, we should be able to absorb the cuts from the supplemental budget without eliminating programs or laying off employees during this school year.

We may not be as lucky when we face the second challenge, however.

The state’s most recent revenue forecast indicates that, if the state continues to fund the programs it currently is funding, the lawmakers in Olympia will face a deficit of another $4.6 billion as they write the budget for the 2011-13 biennium.

That means school districts throughout the state will face yet another round of budget cuts this spring.

It’s too early to know what the state cuts will mean to the Mukilteo School District. We don’t expect to see budget proposals from the Legislature until March and, from what we’ve been hearing, the new state budget may not get adopted until May or June.

In the meantime, as winter finally gives way to spring and as summer approaches, I urge you to keep a watch on what’s going on in Olympia and to the information that we will provide on the issue.

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