No Renton teachers to be cut in 2019-20 budget

Unanticipated revenue savings from this year is keeping the Renton School District from making cuts to staff after a rough legislative session for schools.

The district will still look at possible reductions, such as unfilled positions or vacated positions for non-teaching staff, but no current positions, district spokesperson Randy Matheson said.

The Renton School District is getting ready to present its 2019-20 budget in hopes of finalizing it by June. The Renton School Board of Directors held a special study session May 22 to review an outline of what challenges they might face, and for directors to ask questions.

“We’re happy with where we are with our budget,” Matheson said. “We’re always reviewing everything we’re doing with taxpayer dollars and seeing what we can do better, and so we can keep providing students with high-quality education.”

Renton School District won’t be seeing some of the major cuts as other school districts are considering, but it’s also not a sweet spot, Assistant Superintendent for Finance Susan Smith Leland said.

The school district will now collect $2,500 per full-time student, instead of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, from their levy. Matheson said the new legislation impedes the ability to collect the full levy from taxpayers, but it’s unclear yet what the switch will do exactly to the budget.

The Education and Operations Replacement Levy was passed in February for a $173 million over the next three years, but it will only collect $123 million.

It’s going to be a loss of about $16 million per year, Leland said.

One positive for the staff in the district this year is the state-approved monies for the School Employees Benefits Board (SEBB) for state funded positions, which begins in January 2020 and will pay insurance and benefits to those employees.

But it will be a hit to the district — the state is not paying for all staff with SEBB, which will cost $2.6 million.

Any staff members that work 630 hours per year can receive this, so the school district will also be paying benefits to substitutes and other part-time staff for the first time, costing about $12,000 a year.

The district is also losing $1.1 million to not meeting kindergarten through third grade class size compliance, which is 17 students to one staff member. Currently the district was at 18.5 students per teacher this year.

Next year the district will prioritize adding qualified staff to achieve a ratio of 17.5:1, Leland said.

Other challenges with the budget will include trying to hire qualified teachers and para-educators, managing special education funding demands and trying to get the school district towards financial stability.

“I’ve spent the four years I’ve been here trying to keep the wheels on the bus,” Leland said. “It will continue to be a pressure point, but we’re prepared for it.”

The budget is going to focus on the district priorities, which Leland said included expanding early learning, graduating all students, Renton Innovation Zone, a tiered system of support for staff and safety.

Leland said herself and the team are doing a “deep dive” of 800 pages of information to check for accuracy before the budget presentations.

Superintendent Damien Pattenaude said the district is still on target to complete the budget in June, and hope to have the first public hearing and budget presentation on June 12, and a second public hearing and approval of the budget on June 26.

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