- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle Public Schools is preparing for the worst-case scenario as it predicts a $74 million budget shortfall for the 2017-18 school year.

Superintendent Larry Nyland said in a message to teachers on Wednesday that unless the Legislature acts, starting in 2018 school districts won’t be able to collect as much money as voters have approved through local levies, costing Seattle schools $30 million, The Seattle Times reported (https://bit.ly/2h2Hatf).

School officials say if the so-called “levy cliff” has not been resolved by next year they may have to lay off teachers and cut programs.

“Right now there are many unknowns,” Nyland wrote. “These unknowns will cause challenges and disruptions to the good work that our schools, educators and central office staff are doing, and for that I am truly sorry.”

The district also blamed the shortfall on the fact that the Legislature hasn’t fully funded salaries for school employees despite the district’s labor costs increasing by $25 million.

The levy cliff isn’t limited to Seattle. According to the Washington Association of School Administrators, if the Legislature doesn’t remove the cliff, districts won’t be able to use nearly $500 million of their approved local levies.

Although the new legislative session starts next month, lawmakers likely won’t complete the state budget for 2017-19 until spring or later. District must start planning for the 2017-18 school year earlier than that.

WASA Executive Director Bill Keim said districts are having to create two budgets: one with money they could use if the Legislature addresses the issue and one without those funds.

“It’s causing a lot of concern and instability that probably doesn’t need to happen,” Keim said.

Seattle School District’s Nyland wrote that budget allocations for individual schools are sent in February and March and, as of now, will represent the worst-case budget scenario.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com


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