For Vancouver, Evergreen schools, painless budgets

Two large local districts have a year without cuts

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: August 18, 2012, 9:31 PM

 

The two largest school districts in Clark County, for the first time in years, were able to pass their annual budgets without painful cuts.

The Vancouver and Evergreen school boards last week approved their districts' financial plans for the coming school year during routine board meetings. Both budgets basically preserve last year's numbers, without great cuts or additions.

The finance directors of both districts described their duties this year as fairly easy, compared to the quarrels over layoffs and program cuts of past years. The most recent state budget was the first without payment cuts to schools in the last decade, said Vancouver Superintendent Steve Webb.

Vancouver

Vancouver Public Schools plans to spend $211.5 million this school year, just slightly more than it budgeted last year, according to district documents. The district expects to take in about $211.7 million.

It will use about $250,000 to pay down debts from construction, bus purchases and other capital projects, which leaves the budget in a near-perfect balance. The district will not dip into its savings or cut any programs this year due to budget restraints.

Certificated staff numbers -- teachers, principals and librarians -- will remain flat. The budget document shows a decrease in teachers, but this is because some teachers for online programs are provided by the company that runs the program, said Steve Olsen, chief fiscal officer. This means those teachers are not on the district payroll, even while they still teach Vancouver students, Olsen said.

Enrollment is expected to just top 21,700 this year, almost 100 students more than last year.

Salaries for the certificated staff will total $90.2 million. Teaching will take up 59.3 percent of all district expenditures next year.

Webb, the superintendent, will receive a salary of $214,000, same as last year, according to district documents.

Property owners living within the boundaries of the Vancouver school district will pay $5.37 per $1,000 in property value in 2013. They're paying $5.20 this year. Both numbers include payments toward the operations levy and construction bonds.

Evergreen

Evergreen Public Schools, the state's fifth-largest school district, expects to spend $240.8 million this coming school year. Its revenues are anticipated to be a little more than $2 million above that.

But the district will transfer $2.4 million toward debt service, which means it will have to take about $250,000 from savings to balance the budget. But it, too, will not cut any programs or eliminate positions because of budget needs.

The $2.4 million transfer is $1 million higher than last year's debt service. That's mainly for two reasons: the Health and BioScience Academy, which is a new magnet school going up near PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, and nonvoted bonds the district took out to replace its network servers and perform other technology upgrades, said Mike Merlino, chief financial officer.

The district will hire a few more teachers than it had last year, but only about four or five more in a district that employs more than 1,700 certificated workers.

Those employees' salaries will add up to $111.5 million. Paying for teaching activities makes up 61.5 percent of Evergreen's budget this coming year.

Enrollment will be nearly 25,900 students, which on paper is an increase of almost 300 students.

But more than half of these "additional" students are just being counted differently than they were last year, because of full-day kindergarten and some skills center slots that used to be paid for under a grant but are now moving into the general fund, Merlino said. In all, a little more than 100 actual additional students are expected to show up this school year, most of them in elementary schools.

The total levy rate, including operations money and bond service, will be $6.18 per $1,000 of property value in 2013. It is $5.67 this year.

John Deeder, Evergreen's superintendent, will be paid $196,000 this school year, same as he got last year.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/col_schools; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com.