Board meeting presentation paints grim picture but leaves out missing pieces

There is good news after last night’s board meeting at South Kitsap High School. Some 85 people listened as the District’s financial consultant shared the results of South Kitsap’s budget situation. While the picture painted was rather grim, the report focused on past practice and did not address the sizable chunk of new revenue coming in. Your SKEA bargaining team believes the money coming in will allow the district to build its reserve and provide much-needed class size relief.

As expected, the financial picture was not pretty. There is a reason SKEA members took a no confidence vote in the district’s chief financial officer last spring. Some might say, “Mistakes were made.” Last night’s report reveals, indeed, that over the last few years budget mismanagement has sent district finances in a downward spiral. The good news is that the district is in a position to turn that around.

New Supt. Michelle Reid is inheriting a situation that forces her to help SK climb out of a financial hole. Still, the hopeful news is that the picture presented last night is nowhere near as grim as it may seem.

What wasn’t discussed at all in the report is the nearly $5 million the district is receiving after the legislative session finally ended in late June. What also wasn’t discussed is another $1.8 million in levy money.

From our preliminary analysis, here is how it looks:

  • South Kitsap schools are receiving $4.8 million in new money this next school year;
  • South Kitsap schools have another $1.8 million in levy dollars coming this next school year;
  • Cutting some 61 positions last year gives them an additional $4.9 million in savings;
  • SKEA agrees that the school district’s financial health and stability is a priority and we believe, with new monies coming in, we can address over-crowded classroom issues while still maintaining a stable and reasonable fund balance;
  • There are a number of large chunks of money set aside in this year’s budget that no one has yet explained in terms of for what the money will be used.

Where does that put your SKEA bargaining team:

  • The district cut 61 positions. Fifty-seven SKEA members were laid off. Of those people, 16 remain jobless. Those positions, however, are filling positions opened by retired members and/or other attrition– not filling positions which were eliminated by the district last spring. Keep in mind, of the 61 positions eliminated by the district, only 1.6 of those positions has been filled. The money the district saves from this elimination is about $5 million a year.
  • Without filling any of those 61 positions, the district will have a windfall of nearly $12 million. While we agree we need to rebuild our reserves, we don’t believe this should happen all at once and that the build-up occur by packing our overcrowded classrooms with more students.
  • The bottom line? As the District’s consultant said last night, a staffing reduction at this level is unnecessary and does not serve our students or our community.

There are other things to consider. Because the special session ran so late in June, no one knew exactly how much money would be received from the state. Because the new superintendent made the right decision to bring in two independent budget analysts, financial issues could not really be bargained. While negotiations were being held through the summer, many issues were “on hold” until everyone got a better understanding of the finances. Now that we are on track there, we expect more substantial talks around class sizes and other financial issues to occur.

We are bargaining Aug. 14-16 and, again, Aug. 21-23. With our better understanding of the finances, we will be negotiating on behalf of our students and our members to make sure our students receive the high quality of education they deserve in our already maxed out classes. We plan to address overcrowded secondary classes, split elementary classes and stronger contract language to continue to keep our learning environments safe.

Your bargaining team is ready, willing and able to bargain for as many days necessary to ratify a fair contract that will not accept anything which lessens the high quality of education the students in our community deserves.

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