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No levy fix means Tacoma schools will cut $30 million next year

Tacoma Public Schools says it will focus cuts on programs that have the least impact on students and classrooms. However, nothing will be set in stone until the Legislature finalizes the budget.

The Tacoma School Board approved a resolution Thursday to move forward with $30 million in budget cuts unless the state Legislature allows the district to collect more revenue through local levies.

“The impacts in programs, services and staff support will be severe and felt across the district – depending, of course, on what happens in the Legislature,” Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno said during the board meeting.

Most of Tacoma’s budget shortfall stems from a levy cap, which the Legislature implemented in exchange for raising the state property tax to fund education. However, many large urban districts have said they were negatively impacted by the switch.

Tacoma says it must plan for the budget shortfall now in case legislators don’t come up with a levy fix by the end of session on April 28. State law requires the district notify certified staff by May 15 if their position will be eliminated for the upcoming school year.

RELATED: Tacoma Public Schools seeks input on $30 million in cuts

Board members said they have not identified specific areas that will be cut next year yet. However, the district did lay out several avenues for saving costs in the 2018-19 budget.

The district expects about 80 positions will be freed up through retirements, resignations, or contract nonrenewals and said they will make an effort to not fill vacancies unless it’s for a position the district is required to fill.

The formula the district uses to allocate non-teaching staff at schools has also been reworked.

Forty-three administrative and central support positions were already cut this year, which is about 15 percent of their administrative workforce.

Santorno also said she would recommend using $7 million in reserves to offset the cuts.

Tacoma isn’t the only district eyeing major budget cuts next year. Seattle Public Schools, the largest district in the state, is facing a $78.4 million deficit next year. To overcome it, Seattle plans cut house administrators and cert staff at 70 schools and have librarians go to halftime.

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