The Longview School District plans to delay adoption of new elementary science and social studies materials to make up for almost half of the $1 million budget overages created by recent pay raises for faculty and staff.
The district adopted the 2018-19 budget before settling its bargaining contracts with staff following the August-September strike. Although a 6.9 percent pay raise for teachers was built into that budget, the district signed off on 9 percent raises, as well as a 6.75 percent pay hike for secretaries and other classified staff.
In addition, the district hired four new special education support staff members and is paying extra to compensate teachers for class size overload. These costs, in addition to $1 million extra for the pay hikes, mean district has to cut or find $1.3 million to balance its budget, said Patti Bowen, finance director.
At a Thursday night board workshop, Bowen walked the board through the proposed reductions for this year, which provide about $1.1 million in savings. School administrators don’t need board approval to make most of the cuts, but the meeting helped board members understand the district’s reasoning for each change.
“It’s not the superintendent’s budget. It’s the school district’s budget, and we govern the district,” said C.J. Nickerson, board president. “I think if you’re going to make cuts to a budget we’ve already approved we should know where those cuts are coming from.”
Almost $330,000 of total overages will be covered by increased state funding, Bowen said. Legislators changed the funding model for school transportation costs shortly after school started, which boosted the state’s total contribution to districts.
Then, the district can save about $445,000 by delaying adoption of new science and social studies curriculum at the elementary schools until next school year, Bowen said. Superintendent Dan Zorn said educators are comfortable postponing the adoption to grades K-5 because these classes are still adapting to new math materials they received last year. The middle and high schools will still get the new science and social studies materials this year as planned, Zorn said
The curriculum changes are the only budget cut the board must approve because it also affects the board-approved curriculum adoption schedule, Zorn said.
Nickerson said that curriculum cuts “directly affect the students,” and the board should “prioritize how to save next year” so they won’t have to delay the adoption schedule further.
The rest of the savings comes primarily from leaving staff positions unfilled, Bowen said. For example, the district will save about $113,000 after a late resignation at Columbia Valley Gardens Elementary School. Despite the resignation, CVG is fully staffed because enrollment has declined, Bowen said.
Some board members said the district should be careful in leaving positions unfilled, because doing so may drive up class size and compensation for teachers. However, the board was otherwise supportive of the proposed cuts.
The district still needs to find about $215,000 in additional cuts, because it hopes to avoid using reserves to balance its budget, Zorn said.