AP NEWS

Spokane schools issues 325 layoff notices amid $31 million budget shortfall

April 11, 2019

One out of every 12 employees at Spokane Public Schools could lose their jobs before the next school year.

Facing a projected budget deficit of about $31 million next year, the district on Thursday began the process that could lead to 325 teachers and other personnel being laid off.

Notifications of potential layoffs went out Thursday morning at almost every building throughout the district.

Several hours later, Superintendent Shelley Redinger sent an email to the district’s 4,110 employees to explain the situation and the process moving forward.

“This is a difficult time for SPS, one that is playing out statewide following the unprecedented change to the mix of local and state funding,” Redinger said.

“Please help me support your colleagues as we keep the focus on students and reach out to your principals with questions as they will have the most localized knowledge,” Redinger said.

Those principals met Thursday morning at the district offices, then met face-to-face with affected employees later in the day.

All layoffs would be based on seniority, district officials said. Moreover, some personnel could be moved to other buildings to fill vacancies.

Next year’s budget will be finalized in late August.

“So, we will spend the next four months continuing to look for efficiencies and new ways to meet the needs of our students and families,” Redinger said.

In the meantime, Spokane and 296 other districts throughout the state are waiting on the progress of legislation that could lessen the severity of potential layoffs.

“We are continuing to advocate with the Legislature,” said Redinger, who said the district is underfunded by about $7.2 million for special education, employee pensions and class-size reduction for fourth through 12th grade.

“That’s a huge bucket,” Redinger said.

However, the district can’t wait any longer.

According to its contract with the Spokane Education Association, which represents all certificated and classified employees in Spokane, “We have an obligation to notify the SEA of the current budget situation,” said Brian Coddington, the district’s director of communication and public relations.

That will happen on Monday. A bigger deadline looms on May 15.

“That’s the big one,” Redinger said. “We have to make sure that everyone knows their layoff status, and that’s when we give out contracts.”

Like many districts in the state, Spokane is facing severe reductions in revenue following the approval of a new funding model and levy restrictions adopted by the Legislature.

In Spokane’s case, that levy restriction is leading to a $43 million budget shortfall over the next two years.

Spokane’s deficit and those of other districts are attributed largely to the complexities of the state Supreme Court’s landmark McCleary decision, which included a property tax cap of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Legislation is pending that would address some of the deficit, including a bill that would allow districts to raise their levy lids above $1.50 per $1,000 of accessed value.

However, Redinger said the district would need to reach out to the community before considering a new levy.

Regardless, the May 15 deadline would come into play before any levy could be scheduled.