Budget Update for 2018-19

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear Families and Community,

While rainy today, hope abounds for a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend!

I want to update you on our budget process and the feedback we received from staff, families and community members.

Thank you to those of you who provided input in March on our draft budget highlights, which summarized our thinking on new spending for 2018-19.

Common themes among your questions and requests were related to mental health support for students and electives at the elementary level, specifically around physical education, art and music.

We received positive comments regarding supporting our staff through increased compensation; reducing class size in elementary schools; investing in social emotional curriculum for grades K to 8; increasing resources for special education, especially Bridges and Life Skills; and bringing back driver’s education.

Since we released our draft budget and requested feedback, we’re learning that the state has earmarked additional state funds for future K-12 education and staff compensation which overall is great news, as this is in response to the McCleary decision directing the state to more fully fund education. The caveat is as the state increases funding, they will decrease the amount of money we can collect through our local levies. This is referred to as the “levy swap,” and it impacts our district because we utilize levies to pay for staff. Some of the additional funds from the state are one-time only, which poses a challenge. Generally, when we add staff and compensation, we are addressing ongoing needs, which means we need a sustainable funding source. There is uncertainty right now for school districts across the state, not just ours, around funding for salaries and future needs because there are limits on what we can collect through levies.

We plan to finalize our budget and share an updated Priorities for Progress for the 2018-19 school year in the coming months. You can view our draft budget highlights, which is not a comprehensive list of all of our spending, rather a summary of new spending in the coming year. Given the feedback, we hope to refine and further increase our support in strategic areas, for example mental health and nursing, as well as to our Life Skills and Bridges programs.

And speaking of feedback, we also wanted to pass along a budget survey from the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is asking for input on future education investments to ensure that Washingtonians to have a voice in OSPI’s budget requests to the Governor and the Legislature.

Thanks again for being part of our process and helping us fulfill The Bellingham Promise to our students and our community,

Greg Baker