FY 17-18 Potential Budget Deficit

The state’s paramount duty is to fully fund public education and it has failed to do so.

Why does Seattle Public Schools have a budget shortfall?

The original 2017-18 $74 million budget deficit was the results of:

Compensation, a state responsibility, which accounts for $41 million.

The state is not fully funding education as it is constitutionally required to do. While the Legislature has started to address their obligation regarding all-day kindergarten, class size, Maintenance, Supplies and Operating Costs (MSOC), and transportation, the state has been underfunding compensation for school district staff for more than 30 years.

The Levy Cliff, the state’s reduction of our local levy authority, accounted for $30 million.

Normal district functions related to growth, such as opening new schools, result in an additional $3 million. This component of our budget gap, in any other year, would be addressed through normal cost saving measures.

Levy Cliff Extension: What it means for Seattle Public Schools

First, thank you to our families, staff, School Board, community partners, and Seattle Legislative delegation who united and worked tirelessly together to help secure the levy fix. The timely restoration of $24 million makes a huge difference for our staff and students. When aligned, focused, and persistent we accomplish great things on behalf of our children. Thank you!

Since November, the district has been communicating about next year’s budget shortfall. On March 15, Governor Inslee signed a bill that provides partial relief to the projected $74 million deficit. Thank you to the Legislature for their bipartisan action and to Governor Inslee for providing timely relief.

Senate Bill 5023 provides an 18-month extension of taxing authority for every Washington school district. The bill returns $24 million to our budget and allows us, until the end of December 2018, to use local funds as we have been. Levy Cliff extension will help reduce most, but not all, staffing reductions. Despite the state’s action, we continue to have a $50 million shortfall for 2017-18 because full funding of education has not been addressed. You can download a quick reference guide to the levy cliff extension.pdf icon

What are school levies and how do they relate to school district budgets?

Generous Seattle voters approve local education levies. School districts use local levies help make up for the lack of state funding.

The state currently pays 70 cents for every dollar it costs to provide Seattle students with the bare minimum of services. Each school year, our Seattle community provides an additional $100 million dollars in salary compensation, which is a state responsibility.

Why didn't we get the full $30 million from the Levy Cliff Extension?

The Levy Cliff represented $30 million of our total budget gap. Action of the Legislature and Governor provide partial Levy Cliff relief, returning $24 million to our budget. The original $30 million local levy reduction was focused in three areas:

  • A 4 percent reduction in levy authority (36.97 percent to 32.97 percent) which represented $12 million.
  • Ghost factor related to initiatives 728/732, funding that the state should have been providing and represents $12 million.
  • Per pupil inflator. This represents $6 million. The per pupil inflator is an inflation adjustment to our levies that allows additional funding to be collected. It also drives a state levy subsidy to property poor districts. The legislature artificially lowered this number, resulting in less than anticipated levy revenue for SPS.

Two of components of the Levy Cliff were addressed in the passed bill: Reduction in levy authority ($12 million) and the ghost factor ($12 million).

Will the Legislature’s budget resolve the remaining levy fund gap?

The remaining $6 million of the Seattle Levy Cliff may be addressed in the Legislature’s two-year budget but is not guaranteed.

How will the remaining $50 million dollar shortfall be addressed?

While many school-based positions will be returned, the shortfall will disrupt the district’s ability to serve our students and schools due to significant reductions in other areas, including cuts to: central office staff who provide essential support services, resources, and assistance to our students, families, and educators; potential delay of instructional material adoption; and a 1.6 percent reduction of the district’s reserve (rainy day fund).

Without fully funding public education and a more extensive plan to solve Washington’s education funding crisis, Seattle will continue to face a substantial budget shortfall to the detriment of students. The state must continue the challenging work to provide a long-term, sustainable solution to fund public education.

What happens next?

There continues to be considerable work ahead for 2017-18 and beyond. These next few months may continue to be painful It is critical we remain committed to our goal – excellence in education for each and every student and we look forward to continuing these efforts with you.

The next steps for Seattle Public Schools:

  • We will continue to collaborate with our partners including Seattle Council PTSA, Seattle Education Association and Principal Association of Seattle Schools regarding reduction and restoration priorities.
  • In March, the budget office will continue to work with school leaders and school building leadership teams on reduction and restoration plans.
  • On March 29, based on feedback from partners the Superintendent will share restoration recommendations with the School Board at a budget work session. Then the budget office will rerun staffing allocations.
  • We anticipate updated staffing allocations will be sent to schools after Spring Break.

Action You Can Take

The district is actively lobbying our legislature to fully fund education. However, we are legally prohibited from encouraging the public to lobby on our behalf. As a district, we are committed to working transparently through our budgeting process. If you would like the budget office to present to a school or community please email budget@seattleschools.org or send questions to publicaffairs@seattleschools.org.

Learn More

Learn more and support the Seattle School Board’s resolution to ensure full funding of public education by visiting the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools' website or visit Washington Paramount Duty. You may also connect with the Seattle Council PTSA Legislative Chair.

If you have any questions regarding the budget, please email budget@seattleschools.org or publicaffairs@seattleschools.org.

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