On Friday, March 10, 2017 the following message was sent to families and staff:
Dear BISD Parents and Staff,
First, some good news to share: this week the Washington House and Senate approved a levy bill allowing school districts to continue collecting at their current levy rates. The bill now needs Governor Inslee’s approval, and I am confident he will do so. Thank you to those of you who contacted our elected officials surrounding this crucial funding.
Each winter, BISD begins planning for the following school year. As we analyzed the factors that contribute to our revenues and expenditures, we projected a budget cut of $2.1 million to $3.2 million for the 2017-18 budget. Thankfully, the levy extension puts us in the lower range, and while it’s still a substantial amount, we will not have to cut as deeply as we initially projected. Our best estimate at this time is we will need to cut $2.1 million.
On February 17, I sent a letter discussing the financial challenges and included two options the district was pursuing. To recap, they were:
Option 1, which is the traditional path many school districts follow when faced with necessary cuts, reduces staffing to align with enrollment, and then makes further cuts to programs, support services and electives.
Option 2 also reduces staffing to align with enrollment as well as other cuts but also would consolidate schools and programs to create greater efficiencies. This would allow more space for the district’s popular Options Program to grow.
My objective in sharing the two options was to begin the discussion on how BISD can balance its high-quality educational programs with fiscal sustainability. Since sending the letter, I have heard varying opinions from students, parents, staff and community members. There have been concerns about what will be cut (Option 1 & 2); excitement surrounding growing the Options Program (Option 2); concern about moving the Options Program out of the Commodore Building and creating spaces that will work for Odyssey, Eagle Harbor High School and Mosaic while maintaining the core philosophies of the programs (Option 2).
When I initially presented the two options, I recognized we were under a tight timeline to make a decision. While Option 2 could be accomplished by next school year, it would require significant logistics to maintain the integrity of the programs. At last night’s school board meeting, I recommended extending the timeline for Option 2 into the 2018-19 school year. The school board requested additional information related to the types of cuts that would be proposed in Option 1 before committing to extending the timeline for Option 2 into the 2018-19 school year. While a $2.1 million reduction will be challenging, I am confident that my staff, along with the District Budget Advisory Committee (DBAC), will be able to provide the school board with specific proposals that will balance high-quality educational programs while maintaining fiscal sustainability.
With either option, staffing to current enrollment is required. The Human Resources department is currently projecting staffing models for next year, based on our expected enrollment.
In early April, our demographer will submit his findings. This will help guide future planning and allow better enrollment estimates for the next several years.
Details of Option 1 will be discussed over the next few weeks as DBAC analyzes the budget and explores areas for reductions.
Ultimately the responsibility for making budgetary decision rests with the Board of Directors.
I understand that budget uncertainty causes stress. Please be assured that district personnel and DBAC are working as quickly as possible, while also being thoughtful and thorough. I will continue to update you on this process as information becomes available.
While I fully recognize the challenges we face as a school community, I am also optimistic that we can work together to find constructive and creative solutions that will continue to benefit our students.
Dr. Peter Bang-Knudsen
I want to thank the entire Bainbridge Island community for passing the Educational Programs & Operations Levy and the Tech Levy in Tuesday’s election. Both measures received overwhelming support and the “YES” votes were 75.1% and 74.3%, respectively. These two levies provide 23% of our overall budget, so we are deeply appreciative of the community support for our schools.
Despite the passing of the levies, the financial picture for the 2017-18 school year is challenging and we project deep budget cuts are needed. It is estimated we will need to cut between $2.1 to $3.2 million from the operating budget.
Why are the budget cuts needed?
Budget Factors at Play:
Enrollment has been declining for the past 12 years. We have nearly 500 fewer students than we did during our peak in 2005. For the next school year, it’s projected there will be approximately 94 students fewer students than this school year. On average, BISD receives $6,500 (from the state) per full-time student. As our schools continue to get smaller, it becomes more difficult to create operational efficiencies while also providing robust educational programs. However, we closely monitor enrollment and will update numbers on a regular basis throughout the spring and adjust the budgetary impact accordingly.
This past year we committed more money for staff salaries in order to recruit and retain high-quality staff. A high-quality staff is the most important factor in providing a robust education for our students.
The State of Washington has not fully funded education. BISD invested in educational programs and student supports with the understanding that the state was in the process of fulfilling its obligation to fully fund education for K-12. This has not yet happened, despite the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision. The result is programs that we can no longer sustain.
The budget is dependent on what the state legislature decides. If House Bill 1059 passes, BISD will be allowed to collect at the current levy amount of 28.98%. If it doesn’t pass, the amount will be 4% less. This could swing the budget for the 2017-18 school year by $1.1 million. This is known as the levy cliff (a term you may hear in the news).
Options Being Explored:
BISD is analyzing two different options to balance the budget in the 2017-18 school year. Ultimately, the School Board will make the decision on which option to pursue. It is important to note that these options are preliminary and more details will be provided about each option in upcoming communications and information sessions.
Option 1: This is the standard approach to budget cutting in school districts. First, there would be staff reductions to align with enrollment (at a savings of approximately $1 million). Next, there would be further cuts to programs, support services and elective reductions and/or eliminations district-wide (at a savings of approximately $1.1 - $2.2 million).
Option 2: During my recent Listening Tour I heard from many stakeholders that our options programs are valued (e.g. Odyssey, Spanish Immersion, Mosaic, Eagle Harbor HS), and there is a desire to expand access to these options. Option 2 proposes closing the Commodore building and relocating its programs to places where they can expand. This model provides operational efficiencies while also balancing our budget. In this option there would still be the same staff reductions to align with enrollment (approximately $1 million). In addition, there would be school and program consolidation while expanding the Options Programs (at a savings of $0.5 - $0.7 million). And, there would still be some cuts to programs, support services, etc. (approximately $0.5 - $1.6 million).
What would the options look like?
We are in the preliminary stages of planning, and more details will be forthcoming in future communications in March.
Option 1: In the next few weeks we will provide details of the types of cuts that will be necessary to reduce staff to enrollment. In addition, there will be more details about the types of reductions or eliminations of certain educational programs or student supports.
Option 2: In the next few weeks we will provide additional details as well, but the overview of this option includes the following:
Ordway would remain a neighborhood school, but there would be potentially less sections of grades (for example, two 2nd grade classrooms instead of three)
Spanish Immersion would remain at Ordway and eventually expand from its current model of K-4 to K-6
Odyssey 1-6 would move to Ordway with a possible addition of Odyssey kindergarten
Odyssey 7-8 would move to WMS
Mosaic would move to a facility which is yet to be determined
EHHS would move to the campus of BHS
Ordway’s preschool and some special education programs will be relocated to Wilkes and Blakely
Wilkes Multiage program would no longer be a district choice program
Communicating with you is the first step in getting the dialogue started and we want to hear from you. Here’s how:
Attend the Community Budget information Meeting on March 8 at 7 p.m. in the Commodore Commons.
Share your thoughts by filling out this feedback form.
A District Budget Advisory Committee (DBAC) is being formed and we are looking for a range of committee members to serve on the committee. Meetings will be on Tuesdays from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. and will run through the spring. Apply by completing and returning this application by Wednesday, Feb. 22. The committee members will be selected by Friday, Feb. 24.
What is the timeline?
DBAC starts on Feb. 28
School Board study sessions begin in March
School Board decision on April 13 (tentative)
I recognize this is a lot of information. Please know that we value your opinions and thoughts. We want to work together during this time of uncertainty and opportunity. Each and every day, great things take place across the district and I am confident this tradition will continue.
Dr. Peter Bang-Knudsen