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Marysville schools facing $2.7 million in budget cuts for next school year

Marysville Middle School sixth-grader Zach Blanchard was among the members of the public who sat in on the Marysville School District
Marysville Middle School sixth-grader Zach Blanchard was among the members of the public who sat in on the Marysville School District's May 22 budget forum.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — "It's not getting worse this year, but it's not getting any better," said Jim Baker, executive director of finance for the Marysville School District, as he assessed the impact of the state Legislature on the school district's budget for the 2012-13 school year. "They didn't continue to cut our budget this year, but we're still facing rising costs."

The upshot of the Marysville School District's public forum on the state of the budget and the budget development process is that roughly $2.7 million will still need to be trimmed from its budget for the 2012-13 school year, which Baker acknowledged has meant reduction-in-force notices for close to two dozen positions.

"We're already at less than 2 percent of our fund balance, when we should be closer to 4 or 5 percent," said Baker, who cited the district's four-year plan to rebuild its fund balance, as well as the levy lid that will prevent the district from collecting money next year at the rate that it's been doing under the already approved levy.

When asked how the district didn't foresee such cuts, Baker noted that the district had been confident that it would not be facing massive reductions for the following school year, but elaborated that it could not entirely anticipate all of its increased costs and revenue shortfalls, including a projected loss of 85 students that Baker explained translates to four less teachers who are funded.

Baker and MSD Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland then presented a prioritized list of all the possible and all the recommended budget cuts for the 2012-13 school year, as determined by the district's budget study team, with the proposed cuts categorized into areas of teaching reductions of 1 percent, teaching support reductions of 6 percent, administration reductions of 4 percent, classified staff reductions of 5 percent, operations reductions of 4 percent, transportation reductions of zero percent, and furloughs of four days each for district-level administrators, principals, and exempt and non-represented staff.

While the district's teaching support is currently 20 percent higher than the state average, its transportation is already 20 percent below the state average. District administration is already below the state average, while its operations are just above the state average. As for the district's classified staff, they were 31.821 FTE (full-time employees) above the state formula.

"We've tried to keep these cuts as far away from our classrooms as possible," Nyland said.

When one parent expressed concern at the $250,000 in proposed cuts to special education, Baker pointed out that this accounts for only 2 percent of the district's special education budget, and because that budget saw a 2 percent growth over the course of the past year, this reduction would only take the budget back to where it started from last year.

Another attendee recalled that Baker had reported projected budget cuts of only $2.4 million on May 18, to which Baker responded by admitting that the district is continuing to factor in new data as it becomes available.

"We're going to be negotiating all summer long and hedging our bets in the meantime," said Baker, who also offered some optimism by adding that MSD Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller has done her part to tip the scales in the opposite direction by recently securing $6 million in three-year federal grants.

According to Baker, the district is already purchasing supplies as cheaply as possible, and investing in online learning programs to help reduce the cost of printed texts and better prepare children for the world that they'll be growing up in.

Although the state Supreme Court recently ruled that the state Legislature was failing to meet its Constitutionally guaranteed commitment to adequately fund education, Nyland and Baker conceded that, even with a projected target date of 2018, by which the Legislature would ostensibly be required to amply fund all public schools, no enforcement mechanism currently exists to ensure that this will be carried out.

Ending on a brighter note, Baker predicted that the new transportation facility that will be shared by the Marysville and Lakewood school districts could be built by the following fall.

The Marysville School District will update their website at www.msvl.k12.wa.us with further information.

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