Budget Update: April 2019

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear students, staff and families,

Welcome back from spring break, and I hope it’s been a wonderful first week back to school.

I’d like to take a moment and share an update with you regarding the development of our 2019-20 budget. First, it’s important to understand that there are many unknowns since the legislature is still in session.  Legislators are having lively debates regarding PreK-12 funding around several topics, including potential increases in special education; how much funding should come from the state vs. local levies; and how to pay for increases in staff compensation and healthcare. We may not know the answers to these questions for several weeks or months, depending on whether the legislature ends on time or goes into a special session. Given that uncertainty, we must make some assumptions, continue to plan for next year and adjust as we learn more.

As we have shared throughout the year, we are preparing to make reductions in staffing and programs for 2019-20 due in part to a new state health care plan and associated costs; a statewide prioritization in employee compensation; and reduced levy capacity. Since the last communication about our 2019-20 budget and your feedback, we do not anticipate as many reductions as we had originally expected. This is based on a few factors, including a slight increase in enrollment and levy collections, as well as a higher degree of confidence that the legislature will make some needed refinements and investments in public education funding.

Based on your input and our budget reprioritization guiding principles, we have followed our plan to first look at making reductions at the district office; then within non-employee costs, including discretionary budgets; in school support positions; and last, in the classroom by slightly increasing class size for grades 4-12.

We will use attrition, whenever possible, and already this year, some positions haven’t been filled when someone has left or retired. Other reduction strategies include looking at recent additions (in programming and staff) and comparing our staffing levels with those suggested by the state.

Despite overall funding challenges, we are optimistic that the state will come through with some additional funding to hire more special education staff, which is important because we continue to see increased need for our special education services. We also plan to maintain low class sizes or possibly increase teachers at grades K-3 to meet state class size guidelines.

For more information on our assumptions, anticipated cuts and likely increases, please see our draft budget highlights.

Overall, this is a challenging time for us and districts across the state as the legislature wrestles with PreK-12 funding. I appreciate your patience and support as we weather some unusual circumstances. Again, I wish I had more definitive information to share. Please know that I strive to be as transparent as possible, even when we don’t have all the answers.

Please feel free to contact your principal or me with any questions or feedback you may have. I anticipate sending another update later this spring or summer as soon as we have news to share.

Greg Baker