DEMING – The Mount Baker School District will cut programs and lay off employees to close a $1.95 million deficit in the 2012-13 budget.
To help bridge that gap, the district is proposing to cut its workforce by 23.1 full-time equivalent positions, with 14.4 of that in teaching. The remainder is in classified and administrative staff.
How many people that translates into is being worked out still.
The proposed employee reductions would save nearly $1.6 million.
District voters approved two levies in February, but that money won’t begin to come in until 2013. That amount is expected to total $375,000 in 2013.
State and federal budget cuts in recent years and declining enrollment are among the causes for the deficit, according to Karst Brandsma, interim superintendent for the school district.
Mount Baker also was overstaffed this school year because deadlines were missed last year and staffing levels weren’t reduced as planned, according to Brandsma.
He said part of the cuts will correct that, while acknowledging the impact on workers will be tough.
“That’s the part that’s the most difficult, ” Brandsma said, noting that about 83 percent of the district’s budget is for employees.
School districts receive funding based on the number of students enrolled, so fewer students mean fewer dollars.
Mount Baker is not alone in enrollment declines. Other districts in Whatcom County are seeing flat or declining enrollment.
This school year’s enrollment at Mount Baker is down by 108 students from the previous year. That downward trend is expected to continue next school year with enrollment dropping by another 123 to total 1,709 students.
In total, that translates into a funding loss of about $1.1 million, according to Brandsma.
Brandsma believes families leaving the district in search of jobs are driving the drop in enrollment.
The loss of Initiative 728 money also will mean fewer dollars for Mount Baker. In April, the state Legislature repealed that measure, which voters approved in 2000 to reduce class sizes in lower grades, after funding it inconsistently as finances tightened.
Meanwhile, the district has been drawing down its reserves by about $1 million a year beginning in the 2009-10 school year.
It’s expected to end this school year with $1.09 million, and the reserves fund can’t go lower than that, according to Brandsma.
To cut costs or raise revenue, the district may:
- eliminate a bus run for after-school activities on Fridays and reduce practices at the junior high level to help save about $20,000;
- reorganize Mount Baker Academy, which supports families that homeschool, for a saving of $35,000;
- charge adults 25 cents more to eat school lunches, increase pay-to-play by $5 per student, and bump up the fee for facility use – all to bring in another $10,000.