College Place expects school layoffs

Specifics on the number of staff to be impacted are not yet nailed down.

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COLLEGE PLACE - College Place Public Schools is bracing for severe cuts to education funding in the coming year that are expected to lead to layoffs within the district.

Superintendent Tim Payne, working with the College Place School Board, has developed a Modified Education Program that addresses the expected shortfall and likely cuts.

Specifics on the number of staff to be impacted, or the exact cut to funding for the district, are not yet nailed down. But Payne said he is projecting the district will be working with $600,000 less next school year, compared to this year.

Part of the cuts include expiration of one-time funds, like $107,000 the district got through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and about $140,000 through a federal education jobs grant.

Payne said the district is looking to lose about $200,000 from the state, as proposed in the governor's budget. There are also cuts coming to the district's shares of the Learning Assistance Program, levy equalization and funding for K-4 education.

A part of those cuts - about $64,000 - were enacted in the middle of the current year by the Legislature through retroactive cuts to education funding.

"The state of Washington is going to force (school) districts into insolvency," Payne said.

Payne said in the last 10 years, the state has cut its share of education funding by almost 19 percent. He said the decrease in funding comes while the state is placing more requirements on districts.

"It's just upside down right now," he said.

Formal teaching contracts are due by late April, and notifications of non-renewal are due by May 15. The district's final budget for the 2011-12 school year will be approved in July. Payne said he plans to let affected employees know about upcoming cuts by Thursday.

"We're going to let people know with time," he said.

Payne said cutting certified positions, like those held by teachers, are carried out through a reduction in force, or RIFs. Any layoffs to teaching staff would be determined based on seniority, meaning staff most recently hired would be most vulnerable to being fired.

"If the state would give me my 19 percent back, I'm not doing any of this," Payne said.

The district has spent the past few weeks preparing a list of its employees by seniority, offering stipends for early retirements or resignations, and reminding interested staff to prepare leave of absence requests.

The number of staff who seek retirements or resignations, or request leave in the coming year, will help the district determine the severity of upcoming cuts.

Also on Thursday, the district is preparing to declare inadequate financial resources for the upcoming school year. More specifics of the shortfall and projected cuts will be presented during the board's regular meeting scheduled on that day.

Maria Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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