The positions are all in the central-administration center and include 12 leadership roles, the district announced Friday afternoon. The people in the eliminated positions were told about the layoffs Thursday.

Share story

The Kent School District is eliminating 45 positions for the 2018-19 school year and reducing benefits for some staff members as part of the district’s plan to recover from a budget shortfall.

The positions are all in the central-administration center and include 12 leadership roles, the district announced Friday afternoon. The people in the eliminated positions were told about the layoffs Thursday and Friday.

Non-union-represented administrators won’t receive a cost-of-living increase next year, and other non-represented staff members won’t receive salary increases. All central-administration employees will see a reduction in benefits next year, the district said.

The layoffs and reduced benefits, which total about $4 million in savings, weren’t an issue of personnel performance, Superintendent Calvin Watts said in a prepared statement.

Most Read Local Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“These changes were carefully considered over an extended period and took into account our responsibility to be good fiscal stewards of voter approved dollars while ensuring that we are on course with our strategic plan and shared vision of higher standards for our students and ourselves,” Watts said.

In August, the school district said it had a $6.9 million budget shortfall for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which ended the same day most of the district’s students started school. The district pointed to several reasons for the deficit, including wrong enrollment projections and increases in staffing, salaries and programs that were based on those projections.

The district only grew by about 100 students from the 2015-16 school year and the 2016-17 school year, but district staff had projected more based on new housing being built in the area. But some of housing plans didn’t materialize, the district said. The district also cited more students moving to the Running Start program and Excel Public Charter School in Kent as another reason the projections were off.

The budget issues have affected morale throughout the district, said Christie Padilla, president of the Kent Education Association. Union members, especially brand-new teachers with provisional contracts, are wondering if they’re next, she added.

“They’re worried about how they’re going to pay their rent, or their student loans, or if they will have a job,” she said. “There’s a lot of apprehension right now.”

Residents voted on two Kent levy measures earlier this week, and both were barely passing Friday afternoon.  One is an enrichment levy to replace a current levy, which generates revenue for about 20 percent of the district’s budget. Voters approved the enrichment levy by 51 percent –just 256 votes, according to ballot results updated Friday. The second levy measure for capital improvements was passing by just two votes, out of 23,546 total.

Padilla said she expected both measures to pass, but knew it would be close. Voters, she added, were concerned about giving more money to the district.

“The message came through loud and clear that (voters) want more transparency and accountability by our district’s finance people,” she said.