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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Feb. 24, 2024

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Camas School District begins budget cut notifications

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Camas School District administrators this week began reaching out to staff members who will likely be impacted by the district’s looming budget cuts.

The school district is expected to make $6 million in cuts and use $1.4 million from its general fund reserves to make up for an expected $7.4 million revenue shortfall in 2023-24.

“We hope that, by making some reductions, we’ll be in a much better place over the next two to three years and in perpetuity,” Superintendent John Anzalone said during the Camas School Board’s Monday meeting.

On March 13, Anzalone told the school board and community the 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, coming from the central administrative office.

The superintendent’s “high level” overview also called for:

  • $1.56 million (26 percent of the total budget cuts) to come from the district’s high schools;
  • $1.16 million (19 percent of the cuts) to come from the district’s middle schools;
  • $1 million (17 percent of the cuts) to come from the district’s elementary schools; and
  • $510,000 in cuts that were still undetermined.

Anzalone also said earlier this month the district was hoping to spare classified staff, which includes bus drivers, custodial staff, food service employees and paraprofessionals, and other non-teaching staff that, according to Anzalone, have “taken the bulk of the cuts” in recent years, as much as possible.

The school board Monday unanimously approved a resolution to allow Anzalone and other administrators to begin having “very difficult” conversations with staff likely to be impacted by the 2023-24 budget cuts.

Anzalone added the notification process would be done in a confidential manner, with staff members’ privacy in mind. One-on-one meetings began Tuesday and were scheduled to be concluded Friday.

The superintendent said district administrators and budget committee members have taken feedback from students, parents, staff and the community into account when deciding how to reduce the district’s budget by $6 million, or around 6 percent of the overall budget, before the start of the 2023-24 school year.

Camas School Board members, along with Anzalone, attended a 17th Legislative District town hall March 18. They urged the three Republican legislators who represent Camas and Washougal — Sen. Lynda Wilson and Reps. Paul Dennis and Kevin Waters — to address the district’s decreasing “regionalization” funds allotted to school districts in areas with high housing costs, as a way to help retain educators and other workers by paying higher salaries.

“We were receiving 12 percent a few years ago,” Anzalone told the legislators, noting the state’s school-funding formula has since decreased those regionalization funds by 1 percent per year, which equals roughly $1 million per year in losses for the Camas School District. “We are now at 9 percent. Will that last in perpetuity or will it rebate back to 12 percent?”

Harris said he would keep in touch with the local school district to make sure the Legislature addressed the regionalization question.

One week later, the news coming out of the Legislature was not so optimistic.

“Potentially, we would lose 3 percent (from regionalization funds), which adds up to a 6 percent loss over four years. It’s a pretty heavy hit,” James McEathron, the school district’s director of business services and operations, told Anzalone and school board members Monday.

Though most districts in Clark County would see no change to current regionalization rates, under the state House’s proposed education budget, the Camas School District would see its regionalization money decline by about $3 million.

That loss could be offset by the Legislature’s proposed 4 percent increase in “experience factor” funds, which go to school districts like Camas that have a high number of experienced educators who garner higher salaries.

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