Moses Lake lays off 100 teachers after $11M accounting error. Superintendent put on leave

The Moses Lake School Board is not renewing the contracts of about 100 teachers, with more layoffs and program cuts expected, after the failure of the Educational Programs & Operations Levy, an $11 million accounting error and other factors.

In a special meeting Tuesday, board members in attendance unanimously voted to place Superintendent Monty Sabin on administrative leave. Assistant Superintendent Carol Lewis was named acting superintendent.

The nonrenewal notices are expected to be issued to provisional teachers, who are either in their first three years of teaching in Washington or who have received a low evaluation and meet other criteria, according to a news release from the district.

According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Moses Lake School District had 491 classroom teachers this year. Nearly 8,850 students are enrolled at the district this year.

Some of the nonrenewal notices could be canceled if other budget cuts allow for teachers to be retained, according to North Central Education Services District staff.

The certificated staff reductions are expected to save about $13 million, the district’s statement said.

The $11 million accounting error happened because of how school districts balance their books.

The district’s balance sheet includes projected amount of revenue, which is supposed to be deducted from the balance sheet once the district receives the actual revenue.

However, according to a presentation during Saturday’s special board meeting, the projected amounts were not removed for months. As a result, the amount of funds on hand was overstated for some time.

Because residents voted against renewing the levy, the district will also lose $4.2 million in assistance from the state, paid to districts with low property values to augment the local tax.

There will be reductions in administrative and classified staff as well, the district wrote, although the extent of those was not announced.

The deadline for reducing classified staff is June 1, the board was told at its meeting last week.

About 80% of the district’s budget is allocated to staffing, the district wrote.

Hired in March 2022, Sabin was paid $255,500 per year, with his contract ending in August 2026. If he is let go without cause, the district is obligated to pay him either 18 months’ salary or the balance of his salary for the remaining time.

Seattle Times staff contributed to this report.