Budget Meeting Update

 Last week the district had a "community" budget meeting (I was not invited and had only seen it as a one-line note on the district calendar.)  They invited 400 people and 8 came.  Maybe next time they might just invite anyone from any school community.

Luckily the good people from Soup for Teachers sent a rep and here is Jason Rankin's write-up (thank you to him.)  He asks some good questions for the next meeting and hopefully, this thread will generate some more.  (I have to smile as Jason reports that the next meeting is on September 26th from 4-5 pm but it's not even on the district calendar right now.)

I'll just note that on page 17, it states that the district had carryover funds of $31M. I'm sure those are restricted in some way but that seems like a lot of unspent money when there is need in all directions.  As well Sped spending has gone up 10% in three years. Page 31 has all the groups paid thru collective bargaining but I see no slide for the amount spend for administrative jobs.

Also, page 44 has the chart for spending for personnel for middle school.  Does anyone know what the difference is between an assistant principal and a house administrator?

Jason's Notes
On Tuesday I attended the SPS community budget meeting as a representative from SfT. Over 400 invitations to various community partners went out; there were eight attendees apart from SPS staff. JoLynn Berge, the new Assistant Superintendent of Business & Finance led the meeting with input from her staff and Stephen Nielsen. Full presentation.

The meeting was similar in content to the initial community meeting that was held last year, walking us through an overall view of the budget, revenues and expenses. Key points:

• The state is providing SPS with an additional $26.1MM over last year; it will cost SPS $1.9MM to receive the additional funds, partly SPS pays teachers at a higher rate than the state funds, partly because SPS funds K-3 at a higher level than the state.

• Seattle greatly benefits from having a strong business presence. We have a higher levy rate than any other major district, but that translates to a lower actual rate to homeowners because of the business presence. To illustrate: Seattle’s levy rate in 2015 was 36.97%, translating to a tax per $1,000 of assessed value of $1.28. Tacoma’s rate was 35.47%, translating to a tax of $4.57 per $1,000 of assessed value. That enormous difference is due to the strong business presence in Seattle. The state makes up some of that difference through the Local Effort Assistance fund, but Seattle still had the highest per pupil funding from levy/LEA of $3,674 per student.

• Levy revenues have been growing as a % of district revenue since the early 1980’s, the last time the state ‘reset’ funding due to a lawsuit. In 1981 that % was ~8%. Levies currently fund an average (across the state) of 32% of Basic Education, 53% of Special Education, and 76% of ELL. (Editor's bold and shame on the state. This should not be the case.)

• 78% of 2016-17 SPS budgeted expenditures are on the classroom. 60.8% teachers, 10.8% teaching support (counselors, nurses, curriculum), 6.4% principals.

SPS provides funding to every school for supplies, but schools are allowed to use that funding for other things; often they choose personnel. That’s why parents are often asked to provide supplies at the start of the year. It’s a larger funding question; hence McCleary.

• The gap between state and local funding for teachers is growing. For teacher and support salaries across the state the gap in 2013-14 was ~$13,000; for admin salaries ~$53,000.

• Enrollment in SPS is expected to continue to climb; SPS expects to add another 3,800 students in the next four years.

• Due to the higher cost of living, poverty levels in SPS are dropping, from 43.2% in 2012 to 36% in 2016.

• ELL population continues to rise, expected to hit 6,300 students this year from 5,800 in 2012/13.

• Seattle spends more per student than any other district in the state, in some cases by a significant amount. It’s difficult to tell from the chart what is a reasonable comparison; the numbers are not adjusted for cost of living, and the programs and needs are different; but in special ed SPS spends $14,709 per FTE student (full-time enrolled), Bellevue spends $14,500, and Spokane spends $8,634. In ELL SPS spends $3,147 per FTE, Spokane spends $2,472, and Kent spends $819.

I won’t walk through the WSS formula (weighted staffing standard, which is how the district allocates funding to the individual schools); as far as I understood there are no significant changes from last year. That formula is in the presentation if you want to take a look. The point was made that SPS rounds up for teachers, which did not always seem to be the case last year. We’ll have to keep an eye on any adjustments made this year to see what actually happens.

The next meeting is on September 26th, and I’d like to have our questions to the budget office by Sept. 15th so they have time to prepare. They are specifically interested in questions or suggestions for the WSS. Here are my questions following the presentation:

• Why specifically does SPS spend so much more money on ELL and Special Ed than many other districts?
• Can you walk us through an example from the school side? Once the school receives the money, how do they allocate funds? What choices does the school make in that process, and who makes them?
• How does the capital allocation process work? How does SPS plan for and allocate funding for new buildings and building improvements?
• According to your charts, combined state and local basic ed funding rose by ~$70MM from 2013/14 to 2015/16, while headcount only rose by 1,130. Can you show us where that increased funding went? Rather than seeing a single point in time (2016/17 budget), it would be helpful to see where SPS chose / was required to spend that increased funding.

What other questions do you have that we should bring to the next meeting? What questions do you have on the presentation that I might be able to answer?

You can always reach the budget office directly at budget@seattleschools.org if you have any other questions.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this!

I was a RR teacher in another district. SPS seems to have lower student teacher ratios in sped. I had between 32-36:1 on my caseload in Federal Way. In Seattle, I have 18.

The state is funding class size reduction in K-2 this year, but at my school class sizes are still high(27-29). What are they doing with the extra money since it doesn't seem to be lowering class size?

seattle citizen said…
Maybe someone can help me understand these figures:

60.8% teachers, 10.8% teaching support (counselors, nurses, curriculum), 6.4% principals.

Why is the principal figure so high? Don't most schools have at least two, probably more support staff? I understand that in an elementary there might only be ten teachers to one admin, but in MS and HS the ratio is more like 40 to 1....
Watching said…
• The state is providing SPS with an additional $26.1MM over last year; it will cost SPS $1.9MM to receive the additional funds.."

I've not had time to look at the attached document, but I plan on doing so.

As I understand it, the state provided the district with funding to lower class sizes, but the funding will cost the district $12M to cover the entire cost of teaching staff because the levy covers 25% of teacher salaries.
Anonymous said…
A vice principal is an administrator and is paid as an administrator. They can evaluate staff. A house administrator is on the teacher salary schedule and bargaining unit. They have administrative roles, typically student behavior, but also projects, overseeing a department, etc. They do not evaluate teachers.
The increasing costs in SPED might be why they are slashing SPED classroom budgets , any kind of training and professional development for SPED staff.

Community member

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