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News / Clark County News

Camas schools unveil ‘high level’ look at $6M in cuts

By Kelly moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: March 17, 2023, 4:22pm

Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone this week provided “a high level” look at where the district might cut $6 million from its 2023-24 budget.

“We are on track to make our $6 million target, but we still have some decisions to make,” Anzalone told the Camas school board during its workshop Monday. He said he expects to share more detailed budget-cut recommendations with board members over the next couple weeks.

The school district’s central administrative office will likely shoulder the largest share of the budget cuts — with an expected $1.77 million, or 30 percent of the total budget cuts.

The superintendent’s overview also called for $1.56 million (26 percent of the total budget cuts) to come from the district’s high schools; while $1.16 million (19 percent) and $1 million (17 percent) would come from the district’s middle and elementary schools, respectively. Anzalone said an additional $510,000 in cuts was still “to be determined,” but district leaders were hoping to spare classified staff positions as much as possible.

“There may be some cuts there,” Anzalone said of the classified sector, which includes many nonteaching positions, such as bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria staff and paraeducators. “The feedback I’ve received is that classified (staff have) taken the bulk of the cuts previously.”

Anzalone said the district also has had trouble filling some “highly needed” classified staff positions, such as bus drivers, so district leaders “want to be careful when it comes to making cuts to classified and other support (staff).”

The superintendent said the district would soon host a “ThoughtExchange,” a type of interactive, online survey, to gather feedback from the community about the proposed budget cuts.

“The ThoughtExchange will be the final feedback before we make our recommendations,” Anzalone said Monday, adding that district leaders have been trying to communicate the district’s four-year budget plan. In addition to the budget cuts, the plan calls for using more than $8 million of the district’s $18 million in reserves and containing costs as much as possible to make up for its revenue shortfalls.

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Anzalone said his team has met with all union leaders and is meeting with staff at schools “to explain how we got here.”

That explanation involves several factors, Jasen McEathron, the school district’s business services director, said Monday, including decreased enrollment and increased costs.

The district’s full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment numbers, which dictate how much money the school district will receive from the state, were about 7,260 in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first shuttered schools. By June 2021, the district’s enrollment FTE had fallen to 6,782, meaning the district would receive less “per-student” revenue from the state. Meanwhile, district leaders agreed to use COVID-relief funds to help maintain staffing levels.

The district’s enrollment rebound was slower than expected. McEathron said the district is on target to have the 6,927 FTE enrollment it expected in 2023-24, and is expected to climb closer to its pre-pandemic enrollment levels over the next several years.

The district’s student head count is always higher than the FTE enrollment numbers, McEathron added, but the state’s school-funding formula is based on FTE not head count.

Anzalone said earlier this month the district receives about $12,000 from the state, per FTE student.

‘Critical month’

The district also is impacted by a change in the state’s regionalization funding model, which gave additional money to school districts located in areas with higher than average cost-of-living expenses. Though the Camas School District once received an additional 12 percent over its state funding to make up for Camas’ higher cost of living, the declining regionalization model means the state has decreased that “bonus funding” by 1 percent, or roughly $1 million, each year.

The district also received $10.8 million in COVID-relief funds in 2021 and 2022, but can no longer factor those funds into its budget to make up for the drop in enrollment and its revenue shortfall revenues, Anzalone said.

The district is contractually obligated to notify its teachers impacted by the proposed cuts by May 15, but Anzalone said his goal is to “notify staff well before that May 15 deadline.”

Anzalone has said March is “a critical month,” with district leaders expected to bring a resolution allowing for the budget cuts to the school board March 27, and to reach out to staff who may be losing their jobs by the end of March.