Parents demand transparency as Marysville School District says more budget cuts need to be made

Budget cuts are impacting students in Marysville, where the conversation has continued for months regarding the potential of larger classes, no sports and less staff.

School board members held a meeting Tuesday night where parents had high hopes of having their questions answered and even help provide solutions. Instead, they were told they were not taking questions.

Jalleh Hooman is one of hundreds of parents who filled Marysville Pilchuck High School hoping to get some answers.

"Unfortunately, this is just another sanitized presentation," Hooman said. "This is no different than what we've heard at many of the board meetings in the previous months. They want to take cards from people and provide sanitized responses back to the public. It's not transparent. This is not what we're asking for. We're asking for forthright transparency."

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Notice of money troubles came in March. That’s when Superintendent Zachary Robbins says Marysville School District started tightening its belt, but that wasn’t enough. 

The pandemic, low enrollment numbers and the "double levy failure in the spring of 2022" are a few of the reasons the district is facing an overall $25 million shortfall.

Parents say those levies failed for a reason.

"Historically, there has been some issues with the school district and that is the reason for those two failed levees. The community does not trust this district," Hooman said.

Tensions started heating up when the presentation addressed how the district ended up in this position and the announcement of more cuts needed. 

Marysville School District

"Where's the money? So we have an ending fund budget last year of $9.8 million, and they started out with $1.4 this school year. Where's the money?" Hooman questioned.

While the district has taken drastic measures already, which include making staffing cuts, their shortfall decreased to about $15 million. Tuesday, leaders said even a $5 million loan payroll wouldn't be met.

Ultimately, Robbins said the superintendent of public instruction advised him to make cuts – $1 million worth – every month. Including cutting sports in Spring of 2024, closing the district pool, consolidating schools for the 2024/25 school year, increasing class sizes to about 35–40 students, and eliminating more positions district wide. 

Parents responded with signs asking school leaders to consolidate administrative staff first. 

"We still have to teach our kids but how can we do that if the situation is so dire," Robbins said.

"I don't know how right now in the middle of a school year, we can cut a million dollars," Elizabeth Frandsen, parent to fourth and first-graders, said. "You can't displace enough employees to make that happen."

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A levy was recently approved by voters. However, those funds will not materialize until 2024. 

"If they're concerned about enrollment numbers, and they're concerned about budget issues at this point, this is only going to get worse if they don't course correct quickly and work with the community," Hooman said.

A community meeting is scheduled for Monday Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the District Administration Building.