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News / Clark County News

Washougal schools to community: Where would you make cuts?

Facing $3M budget shortfall, district seeks public’s input

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: January 20, 2024, 6:05am

WASHOUGAL — Faced with a $3 million budget shortfall, Washougal School District officials are reaching out to the community for feedback on options for cuts in 2024-25 school year.

“There are some really significant things in this list,” Les Brown, district director of communications and technology, told the Washougal school board on Jan. 9.

Administrators published a survey on the Washougal School District’s website last week and will present the results to the board Jan. 23.

Brown said the community survey was intended to inform students, families, staff and community members about the scale of the school district’s budget issues and to gauge priorities and preferences ahead of any potential budget cuts.

“Like other school districts around the state, our district is facing a budget shortfall,” the survey states. “In Washougal, we are facing a shortfall of approximately $3 million for next year.”

The survey then asks people to prioritize possible staff cuts and adjustments based on where the district’s $51 million budget is currently being spent, including:

  • $25.4 million (50 percent) for teachers and certified staff
  • $12 million (24 percent) for classified staff including paraeducators, secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians
  • $4.6 million (9 percent) for utilities, insurance and contracts
  • $2.6 million (5 percent) for principals and other school administrators
  • $2.5 million (5 percent) for supplies, food, textbooks, fuel and equipment
  • $2.3 million (4 percent) for district administrators, including the superintendent and various directors and supervisors
  • $1 million (2 percent) for district office clerical expenses, including human resources and payroll services
  • $400,000 (1 percent) on large equipment, training, travel and other expenditures.

The survey can be found on the district website or at surveymonkey.com/r/WSD-2024.

School board members will attend “listening tours,” designed to give community members an opportunity to share ideas and ask questions about the budget. The tours will be 3 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Washougal High School, 1401 39th St., and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 9 at a location to be determined.

Superintendent Mary Templeton will hold a public roundtable to share information about the budget shortfall and gather feedback from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 19 at the Washougal School District office, 4855 Evergreen Way.

District officials said they plan to incorporate the community feedback into the first round of budget cuts, and Templeton said a second round of cuts may be necessary depending on the outcome of the state’s legislative sessions, inflation, collective bargaining and updates to the enrollment forecast.

“The state does not adequately fund basic education,” said Kris Grindy, finance director for the school district. “We are underfunded for special education, substitutes, utility costs, insurance costs and personnel costs.”

Grindy said the district’s ending general fund balance is already below the school board’s minimum of 6 percent, “so reductions in spending will be required to both meet the minimum policy and to keep the district from moving into binding conditions, (which) occur when the school district is unable to provide a balanced budget and can no longer pay their bills. Our current budget situation means we may need to borrow from our capital fund to pay our monthly payroll this spring.”

Templeton said the district has already temporarily suspended hiring to help keep costs in check.

Templeton announced in early January that the district would not replace Assistant Superintendent Aaron Hansen, who has accepted a position with the Camas School District and will leave his current role when his contract expires June 30.

“That is a sacrifice for everybody in the organization, because the work that he’s doing is big,” Templeton said.

At this point, the school district has identified the following areas for possible reductions or adjustments:

Staffing: Budget cuts could include reducing the number of administrators and district office staff, classified staff and teachers on special assignments, including instructional coaches and program coordinators; increasing class sizes; blending classrooms together; and implementing pay freezes, furloughs or pay cuts.

Programs: District leaders are considering consolidating schools, work spaces and offices; reducing building budgets, office supplies, the purchase of instructional materials; cuts to the district’s dual language programs, elementary art, music, library and physical education classes, and English language learner, highly capable, career and technical education and counseling programs; and eliminating community education preschool or increasing the cost to attend the preschool.

Services: Cuts could impact training, travel and contracts for professional development, maintenance and grounds services, technology services such as teacher technology support and device replacement, culinary services, family resource supports, bus routes, summer cleaning and repairs, safety staff and facility rentals.

“These are possibilities,” Templeton said. “Not every single reduction that is possible will be needed. That’s why we’re trying to gather as much input and feedback (as we can).”

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The district projects it will end the current school year with 2,659 full-time equivalent students, 21 fewer than it projected ahead of the 2023-24 school year. District leaders eliminated several staff positions and cut individual building budgets in the fall of 2023, in response to the lower enrollment numbers.