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As legislators argue, school budgets are guesswork

Nespelem will propose $4.7 million budget, maybe


Taking their best guess, Nespelem School District set up a tentative plan to spend $4.7 million to run the school in the next school year, give or take $525,000.

Financial officer Tanya Bunting said they won’t know exactly what money will come in until the state Legislature passes a budget. The $525,000 will depend on what formula the Legislature comes up with to fully fund public education, a state Supreme Court requirement under the McCleary decision.

That process is hung up and threatening a state government shutdown by Friday if Democrats and Republicans can’t come to an agreement.

“We figure that we have about three months of reserve in order to pay our bills and meet payroll,” said Rich Stewart Monday night during his last school board meeting as superintendent at Nespelem.

With a government shut-down looming, Stewart said, schools should not plan to get money right away from the state, even after a state budget passes.

“School districts are going to be on the hook after June 30,” he said.

The school board scheduled a budget hearing for July 17 at 5:30 p.m., hoping to present a more certain budget by that date.

State Representative Cary Condotta, who represents the 12th District, tried sounding optimistic in an email to constituents Friday about coming to a solution by the end of the third legislative session this year, which started Thursday.

“Progress is being made, but given the extensive amount of detail involved, it is a difficult process,” Condotta said. “I remain positive that we will reach a solution for the education funding plan and the operating budget by the end of the month.”

Stewart didn’t sound so hopeful.

“It’s the same group of people who’ve been working (on it) for over a year,” Stewart said, “and they’re still far apart, according to people that are more inside the situation than we are.”

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