Our approach to developing and communicating the District’s budget is consistent with our Strategic Plan's Building Block 4: Data-Informed, Needs-Based Resource Allocation, developing a “Needs Based, Data Informed” method to responsibly allocate limited District resources.
Adopted FY 2023-24 Budget - You Belong! Preparing our budget is an opportunity to put our values, goals and ideas into action through a plan. The budget provides the resources with which this work gets accomplished. Our efforts to restore our fund balances to meeting Board policy will be very transparent, as has the development of this budget has been. We will engage our community, our stakeholders, our funding partners at the state level, our labor partners, our Financial Advisory Committee and our employees in this work. We will communicate about this openly and carefully consider the input and perspectives represented by our diverse community. Our efforts will truly result in a "Needs Based Resource Allocation" plan as called for in the District Strategic Plan.
As Superintendent Tolley explained in his 23-24 Budget Letter - You Belong, the Northshore School District 2023-24 Fiscal Year budget has proven to be even more challenging to develop than we anticipated. While we advised that this budget would be difficult to balance as early as June of last year, many elements of the budget continued to become even more so. I will review some of those challenges as well as the steps we've taken to address each within this budget. Read the full letter from Deputy Superintendent Harman (retired July 2023) below.
Enrollment is not only a key driver in public school funding, but one of the primary reasons district budgets across Washington State are stressed. The 2022-23 enrollment started strong early in the open-enrollment window. This led us to believe that the declining trend had reversed, and we projected a higher enrollment for 2022-23 than actually occurred. This put pressure on that budget as well and this pressure continued into this proposed budget. Therefore, we’ve reduced the 23-24 enrollment projection to a more conservative approach.
Investment in New English Language Arts Curriculum
Last year’s budget included a new “English Language Arts” curriculum (ELA). That budget included more than $5 million for this purpose. The program has been instituted and training of District staff was conducted last summer and into the school year. Implementation of the new curriculum continues which modernizes the approach to this fundamental educational subject. It will be a priority for the District to continue to revise and modernize its instructional materials in future budgets.
Four Year Financial Planning Cycle
The District has used the state four-year budget planning tool as a way to prepare for the future here at Northshore. We have sought to understand the impact of the decisions made today on future years in our financial plans. The District’s financial policy calls for a minimum of three percent (3%) in unrestricted reserves in our General Fund. Included in this budget is the four-year financial plan and an explanation of our assumptions and drivers to do this planning work. An important change is occurring in this regard with this budget. In the past the assumptions were those that would result in continuing to maintain the fund balance policy target described above. With this budget we are using assumptions based on past trends and future expectations about those trends to portray the future fund balances that would result if changes were not instituted.
As a result of the change in the approach mentioned above, information presented is much different than similar information included in last year’s budget. Again, the assumptions are based on the recent past where costs have risen faster than resources. Left unconstrained this is unsustainable. Each budget cycle will need to address these inherent imbalances in order to retain fiscal solvency in future District finances. As has been stated many times; this is not unique to the Northshore School District.
Healthy Start Times for Adolescent Students
The District has been working to find solutions to a healthy start time for our adolescent students for many years. “Healthy start times” as defined by Board policy start no sooner 8 a.m. and end no later than 4 p.m. for any student. This District’s school schedules now fully comply with the Board’s policy.