Friday, March 21, 2008

Enrollment losses, raises from Olympia deepen woes

The Edmonds School District faces an estimated $4.1 million in cuts for the 2008-09 school year. What will be cut hasn't been decided, but the process for coming up with possible cuts has begun.

The state Legislature wrapped up its session Thursday, March 13, and some of its decisions, including pay raises for staff, are hitting districts hard. "We are figuring right now we are going to be in a more serious budget balancing situation than we had anticipated," said Marla Miller, assistant superintendent.

District officials are still calculating the results of legislative decisions, but right now are looking at about $4.1 million in cuts, Miller said.

As for the COLAs, voters approved COLAs for teachers and other staff years ago, but lawmakers suspended those COLAs in the 2003-05 budget. This session, they restored .5 percent of those COLAs, in addition to a 3.9 percent COLA, for a total of 4.4 percent.

At the same time, they did not fully fund the raise. The state funds some positions in the district and not others -- about 7 percent of positions are not state funded, Miller said. In addition, legislators increased pension rates for employees, another financial hit, Miller said. "Everyone I know (in other districts) has adjusted their thinking because of the COLA and the pension," Miller said. The COLA and pension increases are estimated to cost the district about $2.3 million, she said.

There are other factors hitting the district's pocketbook. The district has faced declining student enrollment for years, and in 2008-09, extra employee costs kick in from the contract negotiated with the Edmonds Education Association, the teacher's union, in spring 2007.

District managers will meet this month and next to generate a list of potential cuts. After April 14, they will have a better idea of how to balance the budget, Miller said.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

By Sarah Koenig
Enterprise reporter

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