Vancouver Public Schools’ projected budget deficit keeps growing, with the district now announcing it could be facing $17 million in cuts for the coming school year.
That’s up from the previous estimate of $14.3 million, with the district of about 23,000 students pointing to “a lack of legislative progress in state funding for special education and increasing employee health benefits costs” in a news release on Tuesday.
The west Vancouver school district has released information about projected cuts bit by bit, first announcing spending freezes in central administration, and more recently, recommending staff cuts in district offices and schools.
The district is now also considering the elimination of five professional and technical staff positions from the district office, two deans of students, 15 custodial positions and four maintenance positions. The district is also looking at cutting district travel by half and closing the Jim Parsley Community Center pool, climbing wall and community room.
Most Clark County school districts are facing operational deficits in the 2019-2020 school year. Evergreen Public Schools estimates it will be between $15 million and $18 million in the red, while Battle Ground Public Schools is projecting an $8 million deficit.
Districts blame compounding factors stemming from school funding legislation designed to fully fund basic education in response the McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court’s landmark school funding ruling. But district officials in Clark County and across the state say capped local school taxes and multimillion-dollar teacher contracts have left them in the red in the coming school year.
Vancouver added the cost of providing special education services to the list of challenges on Tuesday, as well as expected increases to the costs of employee health care.
The Legislature is considering laws that could increase some state funding for special education, but Superintendent Steve Webb said at Tuesday’s board meeting that they would be insufficient to cover the full cost of those services.
Webb has been a vocal critic of the Legislature in the wake of school funding legislation, urging lawmakers to fix what he deemed the “McCleary mess.” Webb emphasized that the proposals are preliminary and could change depending on legislative action.
“Now, more than ever, we all need to advocate for a comprehensive set of sensible policy solutions to the ‘McCleary mess’ handed to us by elected leaders in Olympia,” Webb said.
Vancouver Public Schools is slated to adopt its final budget for the upcoming school year by August.