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Mount Baker schools to cut $3M in spending 

School board approves plan to reduce 25 full-time staff

The side of the red building showcasing Mount Baker School.
Mount Baker School District has been struggling with its budget since last summer, when it entered binding conditions with a state due to plans to run a deficit. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

Mount Baker School Board approved the reduction of 25 full-time staff as the district tries to right its finances. 

While the exact cuts will be determined over the next several weeks as the district gets a better handle on the amount of money coming from the state and enrollment, approving this plan allows the district to work toward reducing its expenditures, board president Russ Pfeiffer-Hoyt said at the Thursday, March 28 meeting. 

The resolution also approved reductions of $500,000 in “non-representative payroll related expenditures,” which could include cuts to school budgets, department budgets and athletics, Superintendent Phil Brockman said. 

Mount Baker has been struggling with its budget since last summer, when it entered binding conditions with the state. To meet those conditions this year, the district must have an end-of-year general fund balance of 4% of their total general fund expenditures — about $1.2 million.  

According to the superintendent and the director of finance at Thursday’s meeting, that is likely out of reach for this year.  

“Right now, we’re just trying to break even, pay the bills and to stop the bleeding,” Brockman said. 

Brockman said the district is likely two-plus years out from building their general fund balance back up to $1.2 million.

“That’s the good news: We have a plan and we know what we need to do is get where we need to go to break even and to build out,” he said. 

The reduced educational program of cutting teachers, staff and additional expenses will ideally reduce spending by $3 million, Brockman said to CDN ahead of the meeting. 

The school board approved the reduction of 15 certificated elementary and secondary full-time staff and 10 classified full-time staff. Mount Baker has about 124 certificated staff and 88 classified staff, Brockman said in an email. 

Brockman said in an interview ahead of the board meeting that for certificated staff, they’re looking at elementary and secondary teachers right now, but it could include any staff member that holds a certificate. 

Classified staff includes paraeducators and transportation, cafeteria, custodial and maintenance staff.   

“We’re basically doing a cost analysis of where we are in terms of operating our school district,” Brockman said. “So what staff do we absolutely need to continue operations, and at the same time, remember that we’re a teaching and learning organization. We have to have enough teachers to offer a quality program.” 

Mount Baker’s challenges could continue. The district’s regionalization factor drops from 9% to 6% next year, resulting in even less funding from the Legislature. And enrollment is trending down. 

“We’re doing all this hard work to shrink, but if that trend of enrollment continues to decline we have to keep shrinking at that rate,” board member Danielle Gray said at the Thursday meeting. “That’s the part that hurts the heart.”

Brockman said the “wild card” in their future budgets is the state legislators. With all the school districts in budgetary “distress” — Blaine, Hoquiam, Yakima and Vancouver — Brockman said something has to be done about the school funding crisis.  

“Mount Baker, I think, was on the front edge of this wave and the other school districts are getting caught up,” Brockman said. “… Our legislators need to support their paramount duty of funding schools.” 

Charlotte Alden is CDN’s general assignment/enterprise reporter; reach her at; 360-922-3090 ext. 123.

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