The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin

Dayton School District prepares for staff cuts

District hopes for a legislative ‘fix’ that will make cuts unnecessary


April 18, 2019

DAYTON—Like dozens of rural districts across the state, the Dayton School District is scrambling to build a budget based on worse-case scenarios in the face of uncertain state funding. At an April 10 special meeting, the school board unanimously adopted Resolution 2018-04 which declares that the school is facing a financial emergency and allows for a reduction in staff, if needed.

Superintendent Doug Johnson explained that the district is facing a potential 2019-20 funding shortage and is considering budget reductions of at least $225,000 as a result of McCleary decision impacts. While several “fixes” are under consideration in the legislature, none are guaranteed, and final outcomes may not be determined by the May 15 deadline the school district has to notify certified staff if their position will be cut.

Johnson said that the largest hit to the budget was the new state requirement that allows a district to collect levy dollars of $1.50 per 1000 of assessed property value or $2,500 full-time equivalent (FTE) student, whichever is least.

Because Dayton has a high assessed property tax value, largely due to wind farms, collecting $1.50 per assessed $1,000 would result in approximately $1,142,062 for the district whereas collecting $2,500 per student for 385 FTE students would result in $962,500.

Since the district can only collect the lesser, Johnson estimates the district will collect $200,000 less than the 2018-19 school year and $500,000 less that the figures voters approved with the 2016 levy.

Dayton’s budget took another hit when its three-year average for Free and Reduced lunch fell below 50% which means the district will no longer receive $53,000 in Learning Assistance Program (LAP) funding. Johnson said the school came it at 49.99 percent, which was just one child short of qualifying. Johnson said parents don’t like to fill out the Free and Reduced lunch forms for a variety of reasons, but many don’t realize the data is used to qualify the district for a variety funding.

Additional items affecting the budget include an increase in certificated salary and benefits, new insurance policies that require the district to pay in for some part-time employees and employees that opt out of the fund, and the fact that Dayton is “overstaffed” according to state allowances.

Johnson said that, for the last 10 years, Dayton has ended the year with a roughly $300,000 cash balance. He said that last year’s budget was written with a $225,000 deficit, which cut deeply into the cash balance.

“We can’t write a $225,000 deficit budget again so we need to find at least $225,000 worth of expenditures and reduce them . . . Unfortunately, personnel costs are 75 to 85 percent of what a district spends so most of what we do is going to end up in people and those people end up being programs for students,” Johnson said.

“You could wipe out our entire sports program and you’d maybe save the whole $225,000 but you’d probably end up losing more because, for every kid that decides to go to a neighboring school for sports, there goes another $14,000 or whatever out the door,” he added.

Several audience members spoke passionately about the great teachers in Dayton, especially at the elementary school, and begged the district to keep nurturing creativity in trying to find ways to cut the budget without cutting certificated staff.

Johnson said that if the legislature closes on April 28 with a final budget, it could take a week to get that out to the districts. He said, depending on that budget, Dayton may be able to reduce cuts prior to the May 15 notification deadline, but they wouldn’t know until the last minute.

He also said that if positions were cut, and then the budget came through better than anticipated, those employees could be immediately offered their jobs back.

The school board will evaluate potential areas for reductions in both certificated and classified staff at their April 17 and May 1 meetings, with decisions needed before May 15.

“If they don’t change the amount we can collect locally, I don’t see us escaping from that $225,000 figure,” Johnson said.

Johnson suggested that community members contact legislators Bill Jenkins, Skyler Rude and Maureen Walsh to ask for support of HB 2140, which would allow districts to collect at $3,000 per FTE student or up to $1.50 per $1000 of assessed value, which would bring an additional $200,000 into the district.


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