MOSES LAKE — As it seeks to cut costs next school year, the Moses Lake School District hopes “to avoid employee layoffs” this fall “by not filling or replacing some vacated positions created by retirement or resignation.”
“We recognize we have no choice but to look at a reduced staffing plan for administrative, certificated (teaching) and classified positions,” said Superintendent Josh Meek in a press release issued Tuesday afternoon. “Our goal is to preserve as many positions as possible while becoming financially stable.”
Despite an increase in state spending on education, the district will see revenue from local property levies fall by nearly half beginning in fall 2019 to $5.9 million from $11.4 million this year. The fall in revenue is the result of the capping of local property tax levies at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value as part of the “McCleary Fix” enacted in 2018 by the legislature to fully fund public education in Washington.
The District’s budget for 2018-19 school year is $124 million, of which local levies provide around 9 percent this year, according to figures from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia.
However, that percentage is expected to fall to 5 percent next school year. The total school budget in 2019-20 is projected to fall to $119.9 million, despite over $1.5 million in additional state financial support.
Meek also said the new teacher contracts negotiated last summer added “human resource costs of over $8.7 million” to the district’s overall budget. Lower than forecast enrollment means less funding from the state as well, and the fact that the state no longer pays teacher salaries based on experience does not help either, Meek added.
“The old salary allocation model, even with its flaws, based salary allocations on who (a) school district actually employed,” Meek said.
The state currently pays the MLSD around $69,000 per certified teacher, Meek said. However, the average MLSD teacher earns around $82,000 per year, with district salaries ranging from a starting salary of $48,736 to a top end salary of $115,800.
“We will be working closely with out employee groups to discuss all of our options as our intent is to save jobs and to continue to support Moses Lake School District staff and their families,” Meek said.
Meek said class sizes, especially in elementary schools, will get larger. Currently, the MLSD maintains an average kindergarten and first grade class size of 19, 22 for second grade, 25 for third grade, 27 for fourth grade, 28 for fifth grade, and 28-29 for grades 6-12.
Beginning Sept. 1, 2019, state law provides funding for one K-3 teacher for every 17 students, one 4-6 teacher for every 27 students, and one 7-12 teacher for every 28-29 non-lab students.