The North Kitsap School District (NKSD) is facing a $3 million deficit this coming school year, the causes of which are decreasing enrollment, increased salary, health care costs and unevenness related to local levy collection.
“The good news regarding the deficit is that it is much lower than earlier projections,” said NKSD Superintendent Laurynn Evans
Like many school districts, NKSD is still feeling the effects of the McCleary fix and subsequent efforts to fix the fix.
As a reminder, the McCleary case was filed in 2007 by the Washington Education Association (WEA) and made its way to the Washington State Supreme Court in January 2012. The court ordered the state to fully fund K–12 public education as required by the state constitution after learning that the legislature had failed to do so.
In 2014 the Legislature was found in contempt of court for failing to establish a plan to fully fund education by September of 2018 and was fined $100,000 a day until a plan was established.
A plan was finally established and voted on in July 2017 under Engrossed House Bill 2242 putting $7 billion into public education state wide. However, in doing this, EHB 2242 established a $1.50 per $1,000 (of assessed property value) levy cap in school districts across the state. It also required school districts to provide health insurance and benefits for their teachers as well as pay increases. While this plan helped schools in tax-rich districts, it made things much more difficult in smaller and rural school districts.
Since its passage, amendments have been made to the bill to “fix the fix.” On April 28, 2019, the last day of the legislative session, the levy lid was lifted to $2.50 per $1,000 in a late vote.
The McCleary fix posed mixed results for NKSD, according to Evans.
“While the increased funding from the state was of course welcomed, the reduction in local levy authority that came with it had NKSD come out a bit behind in terms of overall funding,” Dr. Evans said.
Prior to the McCleary fix levy funding comprised approximately 23 percent of NKSD’s total revenue. For the 2019-2020 school year levies will comprise approximately 14 percent of total revenue.
One of the other things to come out of the McCleary fix that has impacted the district is the School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB). SEBB is a program supported by the Washington State Health Care Authority, which starting Jan. 1, 2020 will provide health insurance and other insurance benefits to all eligible employees of the Washington Education Service Districts (WESD).
“The upside of this is all employees working 630 hours a year will be covered. The downside is that this coverage costs more than NKSD’s current insurance program and will require the use of some of its levy dollars to cover all our employees,” Evans said.
Another roadblock in the way of adequately funding the 2019-2020 school year and closing the deficit, are lower-than–average and lower-than-budgeted enrollment projections. As of May 31, a little over 100 additional students are expected to enroll in NK schools next year.
Over the course of the last year the district has been coming up with solutions to fill the deficit, which included reductions to some administrative staffing as well as the closure of the school district’s copy center.
According to Evans the reductions in staff included one person in building administration and one in district administration, as well as the two employees who worked at the copy center.
“These are positions that will not be backfilled,” she said.
Additionally, two positions at the student center will not be backfilled following resignations and retirements.
The decision not to fill any vacancies in the district began in April as part of the district’s efforts to stanch spending.
Another one of the reductions is decreasing the curriculum budget by $200,000.
“During the 2018-2019 school year we had an increased curriculum budget with the purpose of catching up with our curriculum adoption cycle, which had been slowed down during the 2017-2018 school year,” Evans said.
“The initial hope for this coming year was to continue that catching-up process, instead we will remain on the same cycle.”
On a positive note, NKSD did receive $830,000 for its Safety Net Allocation which funds some of its Special Education (SPED) programs.