Tigard-Tualatin Schools cutting $8.8 million, reducing staff for 24-25

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A slide from a recent TTSD School Board meeting outlines proposed staffing reductions.
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Tigard-Tualatin staff are facing another round of layoffs, with the district forecasting $8.8 million in budget cuts for the coming school year.

The district will return next fall with 45 fewer teachers. Though most of the shrinkage will come through attrition by letting positions fall away rather than filling them as staff retire or resign, about seven teachers will get pink slips.

“This is a very difficult conversation to have,” Superintendent Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith said. “This is year two of two years of (staff) reductions, and our challenges continue.”

During an April 8 meeting, school board members voted 4-1 to approve the cuts after hearing from Reiki-Smith and chief financial officer David Moore on district funding and spending.

“There are certainly things that we want to ideologically vote against because we just don’t like it and it doesn’t feel right because it’s not fair,” said school board chair Tristan Irvin. “We know that these are necessary decisions and pieces that we have to make to continue moving forward and supporting our students.”

Staffing reductions will account for $7.4 million, about 84 percent of the cuts, with the remaining $1.8 million coming from slimmed-down offerings.

“These are reductions in scope but not an elimination of programming; I want to be clear about that,” Reiki-Smith said, meaning while some services may shrink, nothing will disappear.

Class sizes will not increase, continuing to hit district student-teacher ratio targets.

TTSD, which has been tapping its reserves to make ends meet, cites a cocktail of declining enrollment, insufficient state funding, the inflationary cost of staff salaries and benefits, and the rising cost of meeting higher student needs as the source of its money troubles.

Federal pandemic funding, which kept the reserves flush over the past two years, is set to sunset this fall, compounding the challenges.

Schools across the state are in similar straits, with some districts planning to close buildings. Portland Public Schools announced a $30 million spending reduction for the 2024-25 school year in February.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools announced a staggering $71 million in budget cuts for next year, with 400 jobs on the chopping block. Gervais School District announced it may shutter completely if an upcoming funding bond fails on the May ballot.

“This Trifecta of decreasing enrollment, COVID dollars going away, and increasing costs is hitting all districts hard this year,” school board member Jill Zurschmeide said. “This has nothing to do with mismanagement by our district or our administration. It has to do with the cold, hard reality of the education system in Oregon.”

Tigard-Tualatin student numbers are down by about 1100 from 2017. Next year’s incoming kindergarten class is projected at about 700, down from about 900 in pre-pandemic classes. Fewer students mean less state funding, regardless of individual student needs.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we maintained our staffing levels and even increased them with additional resources until the current year (when) we had a reduction,” Moore said.

Deficit spending is drawing down reserves in the general fund, which peaked at $34 million during the pandemic. Moore projects that number will be down to $17-19 million, about 10 percent of operating revenue, at the end of June.

“We’re spending at a deficit, but we have been (planning) the last couple of years and making adjustments,” he said, adding that the school board plans to put a funding bond on the November ballot.

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