Puyallup Herald

Mass layoffs avoided for Puyallup teachers, but school district budget troubles continue

Tensions run high at Puyallup School Board meeting

The Puyallup School Board defended Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans at a tense meeting on April 22, less than a week after 1,700 teachers and district employees voted no confidence in him.
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The Puyallup School Board defended Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans at a tense meeting on April 22, less than a week after 1,700 teachers and district employees voted no confidence in him.

Puyallup teachers won’t face mass layoffs this year despite continuing budget hardships in the Puyallup School District.

A reduction in force won’t be passed, district staff announced at a board meeting May 6.

“We expect that employee layoffs/reduction in force will not be necessary,” said Amie Brandmire, assistant superintendent for human resources.

Part of that is due to extra funding from the state.

The Washington Legislature adjourned on April 28 after passing legislation that restored levy funding for some school districts across the state, including Puyallup, which was facing a $13.2 million budget deficit.

Only a week out of the session, CFO Corine Pennington said the district is still figuring out how the changes affect Puyallup.

Currently, the changes equate to only about a $1 million bump in revenue for the 2019-20 school year, Pennington said.

That could increase if the district decides to run a supplemental levy.

Currently, the Puyallup School District can collect $1.50 per thousand of assessed property value. Now, with voter approval, the levy capacity can increase to $2.50 per thousand of assessed value or $2,500 per student. That would increase Puyallup’s levy collection from about $27.5 million to $33 million, or about a $5.4 million increase.

While revenue has increased, so have expenditures — by about $7 million, Pennington said.

That’s due to health benefit costs and because the district is hiring more staff in kindergarten through third grade classes to fulfill state class-size requirements passed in this year’s session.

“Our current (budget deficit) estimate is now at $19.6 (million) for 2019-20 school year,” Pennington wrote in an email.

Still, the district won’t be passing a RIF this year, saying that a combination of retirements, resignations and other non-continuing positions will be enough to drop the number of eliminated positions from about 80 to a third of that.

Those position eliminations won’t be straight-up layoffs, Pennington said, but will be through attrition and non-continuing contracts, involuntary transfers and employees holding a statutory provisional contract, or “employees within their first three years of teaching or experienced teachers who are brand new to Puyallup.” Classified and administrative positions are also under review.

As for the deficit?

“Our budget deficit estimates will continue to be in flux until we fully vet the impacts of the new state budget and when all our open bargaining agreements are settled,” Pennington said.

Karen McNamara, president of the Puyallup Education Association, said the union is pleased that the district won’t be passing a RIF resolution.

“I am pleased that the Legislature recognized that they had a problem and made an attempt to do the levy fix,” McNamara said. “I think it’s always important that the locals have control.”

McNamara is also pleased the district is hiring more teachers at K-3 level, she said, but is “still looking at a number of involuntary transfers at the secondary level.”

In April, 90 percent of PEA members voted no confidence in Puyallup Superintendent Tim Yeomans. Members attended a board meeting on April 23 to share their frustrations about impending budget cuts.

“Our position regarding the superintendent has not changed,” McNamara said. “We really feel that he needs to make this his last year in Puyallup and let us have a fresh start.”

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