A Budget Update from Superintendent Greg Baker
Dear parents and community members,
I am writing to update you on our budget development process for the 2012-13 school year. As you may know, the last four years have brought progressively deeper reductions in funding from both the state and federal levels. I-728 and K-4 Class Size Reduction funds, which together provided us with over $5.6 million a year, have been eliminated entirely. Federal ARRA stimulus funds, which provided as much as $4 million per year to offset some of those losses, has ended. The state also reduced its funding for employee compensation, which costs our district another $750,000 per year.
And, despite a ruling from the state Supreme Court confirming the state's failure to fully fund education, none of that lost funding has been restored.
We are not alone; this painful situation is true in most school districts across the state and nation. In some important ways, though, we are fortunate. Our local community has stepped up to do all it can, approving a supplemental levy last year and approving increased maintenance and technology levies this year so we don't have to cut as deeply as we otherwise would. Even with this incredible support, local dollars can't stretch far enough to cover the state and federal losses. This means we are in another year of budget reductions.
Over these last several years, we have worked hard to look at every part of the system in order to protect what is best about Bellingham schools. We have already made reductions in administrative, central support, non-employee related costs, and some programs. We will continue to closely examine all budget allocations for opportunities to retain as many of our colleagues as possible. However, approximately 85% of our budget is people and we will not be able to avoid staffing reductions next year.
We have also worked to protect class size. If the state and federal reductions flowed through our district unmitigated, we would have been forced to increase class sizes by an average of 4-5 students across the system. With careful planning, strategic program changes, and the intentional use of local funds, we instead targeted an average increase of 2-3 students per class.
Elementary class sizes did increase this year by an average of 1.6 students compared to last year. Due in part to enrollment that came in lower than our projections, class sizes did not increase as expected at the middle and high school level. Average middle school class sizes actually decreased slightly this year compared to last year, and average high school class sizes stayed the same. As we look to next year, we must staff our middle and high schools more tightly in order to reach our class size targets and achieve a balanced budget.
This video provides more details about our budgeting process, including the goals and strategies that guide our work and the proposed changes we are considering in order to balance the budget for next year. I invite you to take a few minutes to watch the video and share your thoughts with us. Click here to give us your feedback.
Thank you for your support of our schools and students. Bellingham is a great community with a strong school system. Even though these are challenging times, I am heartened by the dedication and sense of purpose I find throughout our schools and I know that we will make our way through these challenges together.