State budget cuts back funding to Lake Washington School District

The bipartisan budget approved late Wednesday night by state lawmakers will slash millions of dollars from Lake Washington School District (LWSD) instructional programs over the next two years, according to district officials.

The $32.2 billion budget for 2012-13, approved by state House and Senate representatives in the final minutes of a 30-day special legislative session, trims teacher and classified staff pay by nearly 2 percent and cuts salaries for state administrators by 3 percent. The budget now goes to Gov. Gregoire for her signature.

The LWSD is still planning how these reductions will be implemented in its 2011-2012 budget, according to district communication director Kathryn Reith.

The state budget will “not likely” result in teacher layoffs, but it certainly could mean pay cuts for district employees, said Reith.

Reith said the district has “a potential of positions not refilling” because of a number of planned resignations and retirements. Teacher reduction would be made through “attrition, not layoffs,” Reith said.The state budget will cut $5.1 million from LWSD operations for each of the next two years.

The state budget eliminates the remaining funding for kindergarten through fourth-grade class enhancements, which helps keep those classes smaller. Two million dollars of this revenue was cut mid-year and the remaining $600,000 will be cut in 2011-12 for a total reduction of $2.6 million.

In addition, the state will provide about $2 million less in revenue due to the employee salary allocations. More program cuts and pension-rate contribution increases amount to another $500,000 million impact over each of the next two years.

“This additional cut further erodes the funding we receive to provide a basic education to our students,” Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard said in a press release.Reith said district officials are “hitting the ground running to come up” with a revised budget for the 2011-12 school year.

Reith declined to speculate on how the class enhancement state cuts will affect class size for the lower grades, but did say: “We’ve been getting successive cuts, the state has been cutting back over time. The cumulative impacts of those cuts mean fewer and fewer areas to cut back without hurting kids and classrooms.

“We don’t know where we are going to implement these cuts,” Reith added. “That’s what we are trying to determine right now. I don’t want to make predictions of what we could or might do.”

Reith said Superintendent Dr. Chip Kimball will present his proposed 2011-12 budget to the board at the June 20 meeting. The board will then vote on the superintendent’s proposal at the Aug. 8 board meeting.

“We’ve gone through all the easy cuts,” Reith said. “There will be a lot of difficult decisions.”

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