SPS school board expected to pass $459 million budget following shortfalls

SPS school board expected to pass $459 million budget following shortfalls

In what has been a turbulent year for budget making at Spokane Public Schools, the administration believes they have done the best they could with the many variables they were faced with.

“We are to a point where things are balanced on money coming from the legislature,” said SPS spokesman Brian Coddington. “A lot of that was one time money, so it gets us through the 2019-2020 school years. Now we have to make sure that we are smart and efficient in how we do business and make sure we are spending money responsibly.”

The total budget is $459 million which is $6 million less than last year’s, though last year, the board had approved a $12.6 million shortfall.

In the proposed budget, 106 SPS employees have been let go, which includes 32 teachers. Additional cuts were made to the administration, technology services and others departments.

“We started making cuts away from the classroom,” Coddington said. “It’s been a combination of things, but when you have a business that is people heavy, it does impact people and that is an unfortunate piece of this.”

Coddington said part of the budget challenges came from the state legislature’s levy lid, which was initially put at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It was later raised to $2.50 per $1000 of assessed property value.

“In the case of Spokane Public Schools there was a significant decrease in the amount of money we could collect in levy allocation,” Coddington said. “Over two years, Spokane Public Schools lost $43.5 million.”

The budget lowers the class size for students in grades K-6, to 20 per class, down from 21-22 in years prior. Those students will also now be let out at 1:45 p.m. every Friday.

“That is something consistent that families can plan for every week,” Coddington said.

Students in grades 4-12 will experience larger class sizes, at 30 students per class.

This budget decision comes as the district is experiencing growth, further complicating decision making.

“On 30,000 students, a couple hundred students may not feel like a lot, but you still have to account for those students in already full classrooms,” Coddington said.

The budget leaves $900,000 in unspent money, which Coddington said may be used for programming later on, or go into the district’s reserves, as the district’s long term financial stability is still in question.

By law the district has to do a four year budget projection, which currently notes that the district will face a $35 million shortfall by 2023.

Coddington said that long term forecasting is a challenge, and additional information would alter that figure. He said that the district will have to find alternate source for some of the one time money from the state. He also said that as a district Spokane has expenses that are outpacing revenues. ome fo that can be attributed to the fact that the district has a very experienced staff, with 40 percent having 16 years under their belt. They get paid based on experience, but the state only provides a flat rate for reimbursement.

Wednesday night at 7 p.m. there will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed budget. The board meeting is being held at the downtown SPS administration building.

The board is expected to pass the budget as is right now, but they can hold-off until August if changes need to be made.

To look through the budget, click here to go to the SPS website.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the school board was lowering class sizes for K-3.