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School Officials Digest Washington Legislative Funding Changes

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane area school officials say they’re still digesting school funding changes adopted by the Washington legislature during its recently-finished session. They’re not sure yet whether or how those changes will affect the need to make spending cuts for the upcoming school year. 

There are several reasons why some of the Spokane area school districts face big deficits next year. Some legislators blame the decisions by some districts’ to give big pay raises to teachers this year.

Another reason is the strict limits placed on districts’ ability to raise money through local school levies. Those levies help districts pay for programs and services that supplement the basic education funding provided by the state.

This year, the legislature responded to complaints from districts and voted to raise the allowable amount of local levy dollars, though not to pre-2018 levels.

Some school officials, such as Wayne Leonard, Mead’s assistant superintendent for business, say that’s helpful, but not for this year.

“You know, even with the additional levy authority, we would probably be looking at trying to, if the board decides to run an additional levy, it would probably be at the general election in November and the first part of that collection would be a year from now, next April,” Leonard said.

Therefore, he says, there will still be a need for the Mead school board to reduce spending by about $12 million for the next school year.

Districts aren’t required to adopt next year’s budgets until the end of summer. But districts that plan to layoff employees have only until May 15 to notify those employees.