A closer look at the financial crisis Spokane Schools is facing

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Public Schools is facing a financial crisis. 

State sales tax revenue is expected to plummet around $8 billion during the pandemic. That’s not good news for the district, considering state funds make up 81% of their annual budget. 

The good news is that most of those state dollars are protected by the constitution. The legislature is required to fund basic education. However, not everything in the district’s budget is included, which means Spokane Public Schools needs to make cuts and find ways to save money. 

SPS has tough choices ahead. The latest forecast shows a budget deficit over the next four years. 

Heading into another school year next fall, the district is facing an 8-figure gap. 

“That will bring our total expenditures to $469.6 million. This creates a deficit net operations of $11.8 million,” said Dr. Linda McDermott, associate superintendent.  

The district could dip into reserves, however, pulling nearly $12 million out would drop the unrestricted fund balance below the 5-6% range, which goes against school board policy. 

To add even more financial stress, Superintendent Shelly Redinger is worried about enrollment. Registration patterns are not following historical trends. 

“Less enrollment for us will mean less revenue,” said McDermott. 

A drop in 100 students would mean losing $1 million in state funding. 

The district will receive several million from the CARES Act. 

“Most of that revenue will be used to cover the additional cost associated with what we may be looking at with the safe start to school openings,” said McDermott. 

School officials are looking into buying more laptops so every student has their own and won’t have to share. The district will also spend more money on cleaning supplies, PPE, and transportation costs, depending on COVID-19 plays out in the fall. 

The district will have a better idea on how much state funding could be cut on June 17, when a revenue forecast for the next fiscal year will be released.

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