The Olympia School District (OSD)’s projected budget deficit as of March 9 has decreased to $13.9 million from $17.9 million in August 2022 after accounting for the prior and expected decline in enrollment, among other changes.
At a board meeting last Thursday, March 9, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Priddy said that the latest projection factored in enrollment decline, leading to 13 fewer elementary classrooms and two fewer elementary Art, Music, and P.E. program teachers.
Other changes included reduced planned expenses under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and a more accurate projection of salaries as more employee contracts are finalized.
Priddy said the $13.9-million deficit is a worst-case scenario projection that assumes the school district will enter the 2023-2024 school year with a minimum beginning fund balance.
OSD adopted a resolution directing Superintendent Patrick Murphy to prepare a proposed operating budget for the school year 2023-2024 that reduces expenditures “to the level of reasonably anticipated revenues.”
The resolution also ordered the creation of a reduced educational program and a reduced staffing plan for the 2023-2024 school year, with a notice given to employees who will be affected.
Priddy said the plan would include a variety of proposed reductions, including school consolidation.
The first and second reading of the reduced education plan is scheduled for Thursday, March 23 and Thursday, April 13, respectively. The final projected budget deficit is expected in May.
“I just want to be clear that having an initial, first reading of a reduced education plan that might include the possibility of school consolidation does not necessarily mean that we will definitely go that route,” Vice President Hilary Seidel stressed.
Heather Myers of Boston Harbor Elementary School called for transparency and an unbiased fiscal analysis during the period for public comments.
“We want you to collect real community input when the community knows their schools and staff are on the line,” Myers said.“Decisions about the future of our district for all of our students don't have to be sudden choices.
"This is our school district. These are our schools," added Myers. " We are speaking for our children — all children.”
Editor's note: This story was revised as of 5 p.m., March 14, 2023. The original version mistakenly stated that the deficit increased by $4M. The JOLT apologizes for the error.
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