Tacoma Public Schools plans to lay off 31 employees as it works to balance its budget | KNKX

Tacoma Public Schools plans to lay off 31 employees as it works to balance its budget

May 15, 2019

While school districts got some relief from the Legislature in the form of an increase in their levy authority and extra funding for special education, some districts still have to make budget cuts.

Tacoma Public Schools said it’s notifying 31 employees that their jobs will end in August. That includes nine administrators and central support staff, nine certificated employees, including one classroom teacher, and 13 non-certificated school-based staff, the district said in a statement.

The school district had already eliminated 43 administrators and central support positions earlier this school year. In Edmonds, the school board voted earlier this week to issue layoff notices to 25 teachers, along with some elementary school assistant principals, the Everett Herald reported.

The cuts come as districts continue to adjust to the state’s new education-funding system that was adopted in 2017 to satisfy a state Supreme Court order in the long-running McCleary school funding lawsuit. Under the new system, the Legislature raised the state property tax to cover the cost of basic education and limited the amount that school districts can raise through local levies.

Districts said lawmakers had gone too far in restricting those local property tax collections, forcing many to project big budget shortfalls. Lawmakers voted at the very end of the most recent legislative session to raise that levy cap, but that increase won't go into effect until next January.

That means school districts have increased levy authority for only part of next school year. That’s one reason Tacoma Public Schools still has to make cuts. Other reasons include increased costs to comply with state K-3 class size requirements and related to shifting employees to the state benefits system.

“Wrestling with the effects of position eliminations and the loss of many of our colleagues over the last year has been difficult,” the district said the statement. “Through it all, we have maintained our focus on the best interests of students.”

The district said it’s using an estimated $13 million in one-time funding to balance the 2019-20 school year budget and limit layoffs. That includes district reserve dollars and one-time funds anticipated from the legislature. Because the district is using one-time funding, it said it expects to have to make another round of budget cuts in the 2020-21 school year.

“After that, we anticipate reaching a sustainable, long-term budget,” the statement said.