This information is not some state secret and, in fact, the finance/budgeting folks probably all know the numbers by heart.
To my surprise, I was sent this information by JoLynn Berge,Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance. Great but, once again, not specific enough (but, of course, that's by design.)
I'll first note the obvious for every single one of us adults - when creating a budget, you start with what money you DO have and what you owe/needed spending and THEN you see what is leftover for other things. The district seemingly operates with what they WANT to do and then moves on to paying for needs.
This is obvious when you consider the underspending on maintenance of the facilities, both new and old. This is obvious when the Board votes a COLA for the Superintendent (after giving him a raise the previous year) and yet schools like Northgate don't have money for copy paper. It's obvious when some Sped students don't get to come to school on a late start weather day because of transportation (I had no idea but this is happening.)
Most of all, when the Superintendent and staff, in the face of all operational problems, puts Strategic Plan initiatives ahead of a well-operating district. This district will NOT ever move ahead for its students (especially those who are low-income and/or of color) if this district is not well-run.
I do not believe it is well-run and I have thought this for a very long time.
The Times has an editorial on this subject, Seattle School District should take responsibility for budget problems. They say Nyland has "erroneously" put the full blame on the Legislature. That was not my read of the letter but yes, the letter certainly laid no blame at the feet of the district. But the Times goes right after the union, blaming the district for settling the teachers strike by giving them raises. Amazingly they also call out the high salaries of administrators.
About 37% of the Seattle School District's projected budget deficit is tied to salaries.I'll walk thru each item with comments. I would hope what I ask out loud would be questions the Board would like to know.
Another 41% of the Seattle budget shortfall is tied to what government officials call the "levy cliff."
Seattle Public Schools
2017-18 Financial Deficit Causes
2017-18 Financial Deficit Causes
1) Materials, Supplies, Operating Costs (MSOCS) $ 1.2 M
(increase from expected enrollment and inflation)
My impression is that principals have some leeway with these dollars and those kind of Sophie's Choice decisions end up hurting schools like Northgate.
2) Operations Levy $ 15.1M
(increase from expected levy base growth)
- levy base authority, “ghosting”, and per pupil inflator $(30.9)M
(decrease from no change to current levy law and policy)
Again, please call the Governor's office and ask him to tell the Legislature to call a one-day session to push this off until 2019 to protect districts. If not, then the Governor should make it clear he will sign nothing until this gets done.
3) 2016-17 budget balanced on one-time revenues and underspend $(13.4)M
(We had projected a significant underspend in 2015-2016, some of which was used to balance 2016-2017. One-time revenue was recapture of special ed money that had been withheld by the state.)
That "recapture" was the district's fault. And when that underspend was being discussed, everyone had a wish list. I credit Director Blanford for saying it should have all been kept in reserve for what was coming. Staff KNEW many of these budget problems were coming and did not do the right thing fiscally.
4) State Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and Pension increases $( 7.8)M
(Increase in budget projects based on updated CPI)
This one seems reasonable until you get to the bottom of this list.
5) K-3 class size reduction $( 4.7)M
Cost to continue to lower K-3 class size, result of state underfunding
On this one, know what I would do? Ignore that mandate. If the State is not going to help with these costs AND the levy cliff is here, I would hit the pause button. What exactly is the State going to do if districts are not getting this done in a timely manner? The Legislature certainly isn't getting its homework done on time.
6) Weighted Staffing Standard - 24 credit graduation $( 7.1)M
Estimated cost to fully implement 24-credit state requirement
There has never been any detailed information on what the costs are because no one has explained how this would be enacted. Is $7M accurate? No way of knowing.
7) Cost to open new schools (administrators, custodial, utilities) $( 3.0)M
Does not include opening Cedar Park as an option school
I don't see furniture in here which makes me nervous/suspicious.
8) Boundary changes
-transportation for all amendments passed $( 0.6)
Again, the district never gives clear data on transportation costs so you have to take their word for it. This figure seems about right but who knows for certain?
-open Cedar Park as option school $( 0.4)
Assumption is school opens underenrolled, which results in above model staffing.
I'm trying to think back - when was the last time an Option School opened underenrolled? And, why is an Option School more expensive to open?
9) Labor cost increases $(23.4)M
This includes all staff (of this $20.5m is SEA related)
What? So what does "labor cost increases" mean? And if this category includes ALL staff, what's #4? I would guess this one is raises and number four is COLAs but you see the vagueness here, no?
10) Items < $1.0M 0.8
Don't understand what this is.
FY17-18 Current Budget Gap $ (74.2)M