By Eric Berto
Facing a $3.8 million deficit if it does not change its spending habits, the Shoreline School District has requested an advance of state funds from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
After the district learned of an accounting error resulting in an overstatement of anticipated revenue, a series of cost-saving measures have been enacted. But, in the meantime, the district needs an advance on the income it will receive in the future to cover revenue it thought it would receive in the present.
At a Jan. 23 school board meeting, the district’s Board of Directors authorized a request to the state to provide approximately $3.8 million to help cover operating expenses until April, when the district normally receives a disbursement of state funds.
“It’s an advancement on the state-appropriated dollars,” District Superintendent Jim Welsh said. “OSPI knows that Shoreline, based on its enrollment, is going to get X number of dollars. You’re borrowing money the state knows it was going to give you.”
An outside consultant’s review of the district’s budget revealed an error that over-projected the district’s revenue by approximately $2.2 million.
In order to request the advance from the state, the district needed to present the worst-case scenario. According to district documents, if the district were to not enact cost-saving measures, it would finish the year with approximately a $2.75 million deficit.
“What this anticipates is zero action taken by the district,” said Jim Schwob, the district’s accounting director. “There are several things going on simultaneously and we have to look at the worst-case scenario.”
But as part of an outside consultant’s plan, the district has ordered that individual schools begin restricting expenses such as supplies, overtime and travel costs. Welsh said that the district should realize approximately $750,000 in savings from these moves.
The cuts have already affected some students, however. Kathy Carrow, who has a child that attends Meridian Park Elementary, said that an upcoming field trip to the Seattle Symphony, as well as a fifth-grade science fair, have been cancelled.
“As far as I’m concerned, the first cuts we see affect the children,” Carrow told the school board. “What else are my children not getting this year?”
The expenditure reductions, Welsh said, focus on the extras, not the core of the curriculum.
“We’re trying to maintain our basic programs,” he said. “We haven’t eliminated the fifth-grade science program, just the fair.”
Welsh said that the district is also not filling several open positions within the district. Also, the district is counting on the state’s legislature to provide an increase in funding for costs the district incurs from Fodor Homes, LLC, which is a group home for special-needs students the district must provide educational services for.
“So far, we’ve been very pleased with the slowing down of expenditures,” Welsh said. “We anticipate seeing some significant results from the curbing of expenditures within the next couple of months.”
The exact amount the district has saved will not be known until after the end of January when the district can compare it to years past.