Mount Vernon High School building  (copy)

Mount Vernon High School's Old Main building is seen in November 2015.

MOUNT VERNON — In light of upcoming budget cuts, the Mount Vernon School District is looking for those interested in being part of a budget committee to help outline the district’s priorities.

For the next school year, the district is looking to cut its budget by 4.5 to 5 percent — or between $4.5 million and $5 million, Superintendent Carl Bruner said.

“That’s a daunting challenge to make those kind of budget reductions,” Bruner said. “It exceeds the amount that we have ever had to cut in the past, even during the recession.”

The district is looking for community members, students and staff to be a part of the process.

“We’re funded with taxpayer dollars, we’re a public entity, and when you’re a public entity you’d better be interested in what the public thinks,” he said.

The district is in this position of having to make cuts because of how it has been impacted by the “McCleary Fix,” the state Legislature’s plan to fully fund basic education after a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling ordered it to do so.

As part of the fix, the Legislature this year increased the statewide property tax, allowing it to pour more money into local school districts, especially toward teacher salaries. At the same time, it limited how much districts can collect next year in local taxes — money that has been used for everything from supplies to teacher salaries.

“Our operating costs are increasing and our levy revenues are decreasing,” Bruner said.

The district was one of 22 statewide to have been hit the hardest by provisions in the McCleary Fix.

Before the district takes any proposed cuts to its school board, Bruner said the district is seeking feedback about the direction it should take when it comes to cuts.

“It’s not going to be possible to reduce $4.5 million to $5 million without significantly impacting programs for students,” he said. “That’s everything from the classroom level and beyond (including) extracurricular activities.”

About 85 percent of the district’s budget goes toward personnel, Bruner said.

In January, when state legislators go back to Olympia, things may change in terms of education funding, Bruner said.

The district, however, can’t wait that long, Bruner said.

“If they do make changes, how will those impact our funding?” he said. “But we can’t wait until we see what they do.”

If layoffs are necessary, Bruner said the district would like to inform employees as far in advance as possible. The district must notify teachers of any layoffs by mid-May.

With help from the budget committee, the district is hoping to make recommendations to the school board by April, he said.

The budget committee will meet once a month between November and March, excluding December, according to the district.

Anyone interested in joining the committee may do so by filling out an online form, which is available at surveymonkey.com/r/YT2T3LN.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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