Aberdeen school funding panel writes letter asking lawmakers to fix funding model

The Budget Advisory Committee for the Aberdeen School District has sent a letter to state legislators requesting they alter the state’s new funding model for schools.

This committee, tasked with finding cuts and changes to the district’s budget in light of funding formula changes due to the McCleary decision on school funding, sent the letter to more than 40 legislators, asking that the state take action to help avoid “significant expenditure cuts and loss of service to our community’s children and families,” as part of a “looming budget crisis.”

The committee is made up of 20 different community members, parents of students, school staff and others. Their letter also requests a meeting to talk with legislators prior to the committee’s next meeting Jan. 9.

According to district administrators, the state’s new funding model is a direct cause of Aberdeen’s financial struggles, as Superintendent Alicia Henderson and others have said it disproportionately hurts some districts like Aberdeen more than others.

The letter states that reducing Aberdeen’s local levy taxing rates from $4.31 to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property — the state’s new capped levy amount — will result in a 65 percent loss in that revenue source.

Other issues include the state’s new “experience factor,” which gives 4 percent more funding to districts with a certain percentage of “experienced teachers.” The committee writes that the district has a large number of experienced staff, but barely missed getting that funding.

“Our district is just under the threshold, so despite having an experienced staff and the associated salary costs, it does not receive additional revenue to pay for it,” the committee wrote in the letter, signed by all members.

The state changed the spending formula in a way that provides more funding from the state, but limits what the district will collect in local levies. Coupled with raises given to teachers at the beginning of the school year, the district has less money to spend on school programs. That prompted the formation of the committee, which is attempting to reduce the district’s expenditures by 9 percent over the next two years. This includes a goal of creating cost savings of $1 million this school year and another $3.5 million next year.