Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

MARYSVILLE — After an initial rejection, the state superintendent’s office approved the Marysville School District’s revised financial plan Thursday — a plan that includes cutting staff positions and closing two schools.

Under the revised plan, Marysville will cut around 46 jobs next year and about another 27 the following year. Most of those cuts would be among certificated employees, a class that includes teachers, counselors, librarians and administrators.

And in line with projected declines in enrollment, the district plans to close two schools. The plan doesn’t say which schools might be on the chopping block.

Weeks earlier, the state agency warned it could impose further oversight on the district if school officials didn’t fix major issues with the initial plan they submitted in April.

In a press release Friday, Superintendent Zachary Robbins said he was “incredibly pleased” the state office and local educational service district approved the new plan.

“This news allows the district to carry out the plan and share those steps with our community,” he said.

Since August, the district has been in so-called “binding conditions,” meaning it must work with the state agency to solve its financial woes. Marysville is the largest school district ever in Washington state to enter into binding conditions.

By April 15, Marysville had to supply the state with a financial plan showing the district could recover financially by the end of the 2025-26 school year.

The original plan included inconsistent numbers, inaccurate fund balance calculations and insufficient money left in the district’s projected fund balance at the end of the 2025-26 academic year, the superintendent’s office told the district in a letter late last month.

The new plan, submitted May 15, included “a reasonable and consistent cash flow and fund balance projection” and sufficient fund balances for the next two academic years, among other improvements, according to a letter from the superintendent’s office.

Still, the letter cautioned, the state superintendent’s office and local educational service district “are concerned that the district’s administrative actions, internal financial controls, communication with stakeholders about the district’s financial position, and budget development processes have not demonstrated an intent to implement the budget reduction measures described in the revised plan.”

To be released from binding conditions, the district must prove it will adhere to the plan. It also has to hit “financial benchmarks, including a 5% general fund balance at the end of the 2025-26 academic year,” the letter said.

A fund balance is money set aside for unexpected expenses. District policy requires its fund balance equal 5% of its total budget each school year. The state is requiring the district comply with that policy for the 2025-26 academic year.

The state agency will be meeting with the district and local educational service district more frequently — monthly instead of quarterly — “beginning no later than June 10.” The letter lays out financial reporting requirements and deadlines for “verification of financial actions” the district must meet.

“If the district fails to meet any of these conditions,” the letter warned, the state agency “will convene a Financial Oversight Committee.”

The committee could come up with an alternate budget plan, approve contracts before the school board does, or delay providing some state funding to ensure the district has the required ending fund balance — among other drastic steps.

To keep that from happening, the district needed to “provide evidence of meaningful and measurable progress in implementation of their financial plan, including improved internal financial controls and processes, as well as transparency with stakeholders about all financial matters relating to the district’s current situation,” the state’s most recent letter said.

The letter thanked district officials “for your care and attention to leading Marysville School District through this complex time.” The letter is signed by T.J. Kelly, the chief financial officer at the state superintendent’s office, and Larry Francois, the superintendent of the service district.

“Our continued hope,” the state’s letter continued, “is that your decision-making will result in the district’s ongoing financial viability.”

“I want students, families, staff, and the community to know we will be okay,” Robbins said in a press release. “Our students are the district’s top priority and the lifeblood of our schools, and they continue to be our focus.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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