Olympia school board president thinks RIF is likely

School funding experts predicted a looming financial disaster for the nation's K-12 schools. CREDIT: LA Johnson/NPR
Olympia School District is one of many Washington districts facing a budget shortfall for the coming school year. (Credit: LA Johnson / NPR)


The Olympia School Board plans to vote tonight on whether to begin a reduction in force (RIF) process. School board President Darcy Huffman said it’s likely the board will approve the process, which would mean staff below a certain seniority level could be let go.

“It is the most likely process, and I absolutely positively hate to say that,” Huffman said.

Approximately 18 staff could be included in the RIF. Like others in the state, the district is facing a budget deficit. The number fluctuates, but Huffman said the board estimates a shortfall of about $9.4 million. 

Part of the reason Huffman said the board will likely begin the RIF process is that the district has contractual obligations to notify impacted staff by May 15, and this takes about a month. 

But, there’s a chance that no staff will lose their jobs permanently. As some staff announce their retirements or resignations, that might free up spaces for others to fill, Huffman said. 

The Olympia School District has done an RIF process and then hired everyone back in the past. 

The budget deficit is nothing new for the district, Huffman said. She said she would like to see changes by the state on how education is funded, particularly for special education. In the meantime, Huffman said the district also has to make changes.

“We have to do a better job of not waiting and hoping that the Legislature is going to give us more money every year.” Huffman said. “We need to learn to live on what we know we’re going to get.”

The estimated deficit of $9.4 million includes a reduced ending fund balance of 3.8%, which Huffman said from a risk management perspective is too low, as this is essentially the district’s safety fund for emergencies. 

At the end of the month, when the funding from the Legislature is allocated, there’s hope that there could be enough money to tie the district over. The Washington State legislative session ends April 23.