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Everett school district eyes layoffs as budget shortfall looms

Everett Public Schools says it's potentially facing layoffs if the state Legislature doesn't offer districts more options to collect funding around local levies.

Everett Public Schools is eyeing layoffs as it looks to cut $6.5 million from its 2019-20 budget.

The district announced Wednesday it could also cut an additional $11.5 million in the 2020-21 school year and $5 million in the 2021-22 school year if the Legislature doesn’t provide an education funding fix.

“We’re approaching this as not portraying this as a crisis,” said Jeff Moore, executive director of finance and business services at Everett Public Schools. “We have a real challenge for this year, but we're going to do our best to make thoughtful reductions where necessary, and it’s the next year we will feel the pain.”

Next year’s cuts, which would be determined this spring, would result in a 2 percent reduction in the budget, and is “likely to include layoffs,” although the number of layoffs is unknown.

Staff reductions could come through attrition or by not filling vacant positions.

The district says budget reductions hinges on whether the state Legislature provides additional school funding during the winter session. If lawmakers don’t provide the funding, the Everett district says it could result in $23 million in budget cuts by 2022.

The funding shortfall stems from the Legislature’s fix to the McCleary Decision, where the State Supreme Court found that education was not being adequately funded. As part of the funding fix, the Legislature put a cap on local levies that districts can collect. Districts can now collect the lesser of two amounts: $2,500 per student or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

RELATED: Tacoma School District says McCleary funding model doesn't work

In October, Washington state Superintendent Chris Reykdal proposed a different levy plan where districts can’t collect more than 22 percent of the district’s state and federal revenues. He has also floated a capital gains tax to generate about $1 billion in revenue to cut property taxes, which could help districts pass education levies, and pay for special education, counselors and nurses, and career and technical education classes.

Other Western Washington districts, including Seattle and Tacoma, have said they were also shortchanged by the Legislature’s new funding model. Seattle says it could face a $45 million deficit next year if it can’t make up losses from local levies.