Kindergarteners from around the school district wait to change classrooms at Woodside Elementary School during Everett Ready, a program that helps kindergarteners get familiar with school routines on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, near Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Kindergarteners from around the school district wait to change classrooms at Woodside Elementary School during Everett Ready, a program that helps kindergarteners get familiar with school routines on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, near Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett schools deficit shrunk by $23M following loss of 140 staff

The deficit fell from $28 million to an estimated $4.4 million, with most staff reductions coming from attrition.

EVERETT — Everett Public Schools’ deficit is projected to drop by over $20 million by the 2024-2025 school year, following attrition and layoffs that led to the loss of 140 staff members last year, as well as an increase in tax revenue.

Twenty-three of those staff members were laid off, according to the school district.

At a school board meeting last week, district finance staff presented their budget predictions for the 2024-2025 school year, revealing the massive difference in deficit estimates from last year.

A February 2023 budget presentation predicted a deficit of $27.9 million for the 2023-2024 school year, but that number plummeted to an estimated $4.4 million for 2024-2025, partly thanks to a predicted $12 million increase in revenue.

“We are pleased we are in a much better position than last year and than many other local districts,” district spokesperson Kathy Reeves said in an email.

In March 2023, the district approved a reduction plan, including potential layoffs of more than 140 employees.

“We had staffing cost savings from our reduction plan last year in the June timeframe as we let go of staff,” district finance director Andi Truss said Jan. 30 at a school board meeting. “That process did a great job of moving what we need to do this year.”

Crunching the numbers

Under a plan approved by the school board last year, the district would save $27 million through “staff reduction” and slashing operation costs. Most of the reductions were made through attrition, Reeves said.

“There have been no reductions in teachers, office professionals or paraeducators,” Reeves said in an email on Wednesday.

At a board meeting in June 2023, district finance staff provided the board with a fiscal update.

Staff estimated expenditures would decrease by $9.8 million in 2024, noting a decline in spending on staff salaries and benefits. Staff losses aligned with decreased enrollment numbers.

Furthermore, in January, staff estimated revenues would increase by $12.8 million this year, following tax and funding increases approved during the 2023 legislative session.

In Marysville, budget figures shifting by millions of dollars sparked a protest this week, with staff and parents calling for Superintendent Zac Robbins to lose his job. His contract was extended unanimously Tuesday.

Getting ahead

Despite the massive difference from last year’s budget estimates in Everett, the district hopes to reduce the $4.4 million deficit projected for 2024-2025. At the January meeting, staff recommended coming up with a plan to reduce the deficit by between $3 and $5 million.

The moves would ensure the district doesn’t fall below the minimum fund balance required by board policy. The general fund must contain a minimum of 5% of the district’s annual expenses, according to the policy.

The district could fall below the minimum before 2026 if they don’t pursue another deficit reduction plan, according to staff estimates.

Tress, the finance director, suggested the district could reduce the 2024-2025 deficit through further attrition and reduced spending on supplies and operating costs.

Around 48% of the district’s spending goes to certificated staff salaries, such as teachers, administration and counselors, followed by employee benefits sitting at around 20%. Only 3.6% of spending goes to supplies and materials.

After the state legislative session concludes, the board is set to make a final decision in April.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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