Elementary students sit in row working on computers

Community review and school board approval of the 2023-24 annual budget are underway. This yearly process helps ensure budget allocation for vital programs and services that support our learning community for the school year.

The district recommended budget reductions for the 2023/2024 school year to the school board on May 18 (read the presentation transcript below). The reduction decisions were made with students at the center and maintained priority programs and services including mental health supports; arts and music at all school levels; and clubs, extra-curricular activities, and athletics. In addition, the district will continue to provide high levels of support to highly impacted schools and students. Reductions were made in district administration, operations and materials, supplies, and operating costs. Additionally, there wasn’t a formal reduction in force (RIF). Those leaving the district are doing so either under a non-continuing contract that was created and agreed to at the start of the 2022-23 school year, or by their decision.

Many school districts in Washington are facing financial challenges and are being forced to cut programs and services close to students such as librarians, counselors, security staff and arts and music programs. We are grateful we could avoid reductions with such significant impacts to students. The recommended reductions, combined with the elementary school consolidations, create a more stable financial future for the district.

See the timeline as follows:

  • August 3: Full budget review
  • August 17: Board vote

Policy 6000 Budget Preparation requires notice and conduct of a budget hearing before approval. The proposed budget must be available to the public by July 10. The annual budget must be adopted by August 31.


Learn more about this annual process.

2023/2024 Fiscal Year Budget Update Presentation Transcript

Incoming Superintendent Dr. Kelly Aramaki:
Melissa deVita is going to give a presentation on budget and give you a budget update, and I just wanted to open this part by saying this has been a challenging year not just in Bellevue but across the entire region around declining enrollment.

So as our community knows full well, we have gone through a lot of engagement and conversations and in some cases, heartbreaking conversations, about how we’re going to manage declining enrollment and how we’re going to manage the budget. So, we had to make some very difficult decisions which included consolidation of schools with all of those decisions made.

The next step was for us to figure out how we’re going to then reduce a total of $31 million out of this year’s budget. Melissa deVita has been leading this work, but so has Eva Collins and others on the team, and they’re going to present to you how we’re going to make it to the $31 million. And I wanted people to know that they have done a remarkable job in keeping the cuts away from students and away from programs. We’ve been listening to kids, we’ve been listening to families; they’ve been telling us what their priorities are around mental health, around maintaining music and clubs and things like that. What you’re going to see and hear from Melissa deVita is a remarkable plan to manage the cuts, but to keep them as far away from students as possible. All right, go ahead Melissa.

Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations, Melissa deVita:
Thank you, Dr. Aramaki. Good evening board thank you for this opportunity to share information regarding the 23-24 school year budget. For the record, my name is Melissa deVita, the Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Operations. Next slide, please. The focus of this presentation will include a discussion about the budget timeline and some of the background that we use when we are looking at the potential budget reductions. Of course, any budget reduction has risks, and there are strategies that we can put in place to help minimize these risks that will be included as part of this discussion. And we will also be discussing some of the new opportunities that we are able to invest in this year to provide opportunities for students. Next slide, please.

Before we begin, I think it’s important to recognize that our budget planning process is centered around students. We know how and where the district’s money is spent does make a difference for our students, and we also believe that the only way to achieve our strategic goals and annual plan goals is to support the programs that will allow the district to achieve those outcomes for our students and community. Developing the Strategic Plan and the Annual Plan includes significant community outreach and engagement, and the budget development process utilizes this input as a basis for planning the district spending priorities.

We have heard from our community and students alike that mental health supports remain at the top of the priority list, so they have remained intact as we move into next year. We have also kept programs that keep students engaged at schools such as music, the arts, clubs extracurricular activities, and athletics. I’m proud of the work our district has done to minimize the impact of these reductions to our students in the best ways possible. Next slide, please.

We have discussed the impact of dropping enrollment many times, and we continue to anticipate the ongoing lower enrollment as we move forward. We have also discussed the impact of dropping enrollment, that it has immediately on district revenues. And even though our revenue is reduced quickly, it is more difficult for us to reduce our expenses in the same time frame. For every 200 students we lose, we could lose as many as eight to ten teachers. However, we lose students across our schools and across all the grade levels, making it difficult to make these types of staffing adjustments within that necessary timeline.

So, there are three strategies that we are using to look at reducing costs from decreasing enrollment. One of those is contraction. Another is innovation. And the third is consolidation. We at Bellevue School District are using a combination of these strategies moving forward. As we have discussed previously at the board meeting on March 9th, the board did move forward with the superintendent’s recommendation to consolidate two elementary schools. We recognize the impact this has on our community and students, but has also allowed the district to focus the reductions for the 23-24 school year primarily on expenses incurred outside of school buildings.

The reductions impacting our school buildings are primarily driven by lower enrollment such as fewer educators, less money for materials and supplies, and fewer classified hours, which are all provided based on anticipated enrollment in each school. Next slide, please

As I mentioned earlier in March, we provided alternatives for the board to consider with respect to expenditure reductions. Now as we move forward into the 23-24 year, we’re bringing you a detailed plan for those additional budget reductions And as I stated earlier, I’m proud of what the work my colleagues did. In August, at the first board meeting, we will present the complete budget for consideration by the board and to gather additional feedback from the board. And then at the final meeting in August, we will have the public budget hearing that we are required to have. Then we will be asking the board to approve the 23-24 fiscal year budget. Next slide.

As Kelly stated earlier, many districts in the state of Washington are facing financial challenges and the stories in the newspapers and on the news are becoming more frequent in identifying the areas that other districts are reducing spending. This is a partial list of the districts most recently in the news and some of the things that they have been doing in their districts to look for ways to balance their budgets. Many of the districts are following the contraction model for reductions, and they anticipate continuing to reduce their spending in upcoming years. For example, Issaquah School District has already gone through two years of spending cuts and has impacted things like math, intervention supports, instructional coaches, behavioral specialists, and other supports that are in our school buildings that do support many of our most impacted students.

As you will see when you look at the detail for the reductions that we are proposing, most of them are outside of our school buildings and we are not impacting things like nurses, counselors, music programs, arts programs, security staff, or extracurricular programs. These are very hard decisions to make, and I do not envy any district that is going through this, including ourselves, as we try and make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and our community. Making difficult decisions, just like any other district, is really hard at this time. And I hope that you see where we’re focusing our reductions, we’ll have the minimal impact on our kids. Next slide, please.

I wanted to remind you what we put before the board in March. At that time, there were three different scenarios that we were looking at. The first was consolidating two elementary schools, the second was around leveraging our fund balance, and the third was just reducing staff through a RIF. The above is the consolidation of two schools scenario that was presented at that meeting, and I wanted to provide you with this so that when we look at the planned reductions for the 23-24 school year, you have a basis for comparison. I also want to stress that these numbers are estimates. When we put this together, it was the end of February. We were only five months into our current fiscal year, and the legislature was still working on their budget. And K-12 funding, needless to say, some of these numbers will be changing as we continue to move through the remainder of the year.

I also want to stress that anything that we take out of the fund balance is like our savings account and we’re using one-time funds, to help us balance our budget this year, which means that we will have to find those additional funds in future years. So, if we are able to reduce our spending by more than we had planned, this will reduce how much we end up taking from our fund balance and then will help us reduce how much we would have to find in the 24-25 school year, and the 25-26 year. Next slide, please.

So, the left column on this slide contains the plan that appeared on the previous slide for the 23-24 school year. The middle column are the planned reductions for the next school year, and the far-right column is the difference between the original plan and the recommended reductions. In the appendix to this deck are the specifics for each of these areas, but I wanted to provide you first with an overview of what these reductions would look like. We are recommending a total savings or reductions in excess of $31 million at this time, by $1,629,000 million. We are taking significantly more from the central office positions and operations than originally planned. And with respect to the central office reductions, we are reducing by 15.6 positions. The school-based reductions that we are proposing beyond the consolidation savings are all enrollment-based; they are not program-based, and they do not reduce services to students. And the reduction in the material supplies and operating costs at the bottom, which exceeds our original proposal. Three million dollars is from departments and not from schools.

At this point I’d like to turn it over to Kelly to talk a little bit more about the benefits and the risks of the reductions that we are planning. Go ahead to the next slide, please.

Incoming Superintendent Dr. Kelly Aramaki:
Many of these Melissa talked about, but just to point out again, when we’ve talked with kids — I met with the Student Advisory Council — and with families, mental health was a major concern. They wanted to make sure that we maintain our investments in that. And by doing this, we were able to keep all of our MHAT counselors. We have one of the best approaches to mental health supports in the state, and so what you’ll see is we left untouched our mental health supports — which we are really proud of.

We also were able to avoid a reduction in force, which is really important. And what we’re finding now is we’re working through retirements, things like that we’re actually able to bring some of our non-continuing back, and so we were able to minimize the impact on many of our novice teachers.

And then the other thing I’ll just point out is just around arts, music, robotics, all of these things, that the kids have been talking about. These key Investments that make learning joyful for them, those are things that we were able to maintain as well, and so I just wanted to point that out.

The last thing I’ll mention is, and maybe this goes into risks. If you want to go to the next slide. Even though we’re keeping a lot of the cuts away from the students, there are potential impacts and risks. So, cutting three to four million dollars from the central office is something that had to be done, and people will feel it. And so, I just want to point out that eliminating some of the support positions that we have is going to be a hardship on some of the schools, but we felt that it was a necessary cut in order to preserve the actual direct services to teachers and students in the buildings. And so that’s just a list of some of the risks that we have identified, but we are working to mitigate them as we move forward.

The next slide, and I think this is we’re close to the end, is the Critical Criteria Review reflections, so we are going to send on Friday, in our Friday update to the board, we will attach an official Critical Criteria Review so that you can see how we looked at engagement of community, how we looked at mitigating measures for what we think would be the most impacted students. What you’ll see is even though we have a lot of investment in our higher poverty schools, and we have maintained those investments for those kids particularly coming out of the pandemic. And so, we’ll include tomorrow kind of a more extensive Critical Criteria Review that you can take a look at, including reflections on what it was like to go through the Critical Criteria Review, because part of our work is to use the Critical Criteria but also to continue to learn and grow and get better at it. Next slide.

The last thing I’ll just mention is going through enrollment decline and budget reductions is not pleasant in school districts, and one thing that we want to do is we want to establish stability in our district so that we’re not constantly cutting and getting smaller. And so, we’re making hard choices now so that we can thrive as a school district over the next 10 years. And so, by doing these things, we’re going to continue to be able to offer the best opportunities for our kids, including things like launching heritage languages, bringing aerospace and aeronautics to our middle and high schools, and then improving how we serve our families who are bilingual by expanding language access for families. And so, we’re going to continue to thrive and continue to serve our community in the way that they expect, and we’re going to do that by making sure that we are on top of our fiscal planning.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.