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March 7, 2021

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Battle Ground schools to cut 44 positions

District says $8 million deficit largely due to falling enrollment

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

Battle Ground Public Schools announced further specifics of expected budget cuts, including the elimination of more than 40 staff positions.

The 13,000-student school district, like others in Clark County, is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit. Districts blame compounding factors for the cuts: declining enrollment, capped local levy dollars and increasing labor costs, in part, driven by last year’s contract negotiations.

Battle Ground is projecting an overall deficit of about $8 million for the upcoming school year. The district has about $188 million in expenditures budgeted this year.

Declining enrollment is the most significant driver of cuts in the north Clark County school district, spokeswoman Rita Sanders said.

Full-time enrollment in the district is about 12,965 students this year, according to the Office of Public Instruction. That’s down from the 13,564 projected enrollment. Next year, the school district is projecting that enrollment will stay relatively steady at 13,092 students.

“If we hadn’t had such a significant enrollment decrease, we probably wouldn’t have to (reduce) so many positions,” Sanders said.

The district’s school board adopted a reduction-in-force resolution Monday, announcing the elimination of 44 staff positions for a cost-savings of nearly $3 million. The district will also cut about $4.3 million in material and supply costs, and nearly $4 million in contracts and professional services.

Cutting 44 positions doesn’t mean 44 people will lose their jobs, however. Sanders said many of the cuts will be made up through retirement or people leaving for jobs elsewhere.

At last count, the district estimates 15 people could be cut and that number could change if more staff leave the district.

Besides rising labor costs in the district, Sanders pointed to “complexities” in the state’s new school funding formula, which capped local levies while limiting what some state money could be spent on.

The district has shied away from placing blame on last year’s heated contract negotiations, however. Battle Ground Public Schools teachers were on strike for longer than those in any other school district, eventually settling on a multimillion-dollar contract that gave teachers significant pay increases.

“We didn’t know when we were in bargaining and negotiations what our enrollment was going to be,” Sanders said. “We don’t have a crystal ball.”

Evergreen Public Schools projects budget deficits between $15 million and $18 million next year. Vancouver Public Schools projects $17 million in deficits, and on Thursday issued layoff notices to 30 clerks throughout the district.

Battle Ground Public Schools is slated to adopt its budget over the summer.

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