Questions about the budget process
Why is this Round 1 of reductions? Why do you need to plan for Round 2?
There are four primary factors that will determine whether we need an additional round of budget reductions. The state legislature is currently in session, and considering legislation that may change school funding for next school year, as well as requirements for schools. We are monitoring inflation, especially for things like utilities, which are likely to increase next year. We will be negotiating contracts with WAE and PSE, which may have an impact. Finally, we are monitoring current spending, as how much we spend this year will be a factor in where we start the next budget cycle.
Why do you have a shortfall?
State Underfunds Education
The state underfunds education, leaving significant gaps in funding that must be made up using local resources.
For example, the state does not provide enough in funding for special education, pupil transportation, or school nurses. The state does not provide enough for the cost of insurance, utilities, employee benefits or substitute teachers.
The state funding does not cover the cost of the excellent programs our community expects for students.
Every year for the past 7 years, the number of students graduating has been bigger than the number of incoming Kindergarten students, typically by 50 or more students.
Washougal grew rapidly in the early 2000s with the construction of the Sunset Ridge neighborhood. The last of the big wave of students from families that moved in during that period are graduating over the next few years. With each new group of incoming students being smaller, we have a downward trend in enrollment that is expected to continue for a few more years.
As we adjust to serve fewer students, we need fewer staff to maintain student/staff ratios. We are working hard to balance class sizes across the district and ensure high quality programs for students, while being good stewards of public resources.
The cost for just about everything has gone up over the past few years, including most of the things a school district needs to serve students. Our district has seen cost increases for utilities, fuel, food, insurance, and staff costs.
State funding has not kept pace with the increase in these costs, leading to an increasing gap between what we receive from the state and what it costs to provide an excellent education for every student.
Voters approved $9.5 million in our Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O) for collection starting in tax year 2024. State rules for EP&O levy funds include a rule that caps them based on the number of students a district serves.
With our projected enrollment, we are legally required to “roll back” $700,000 in levy funding. These are voter approved property taxes that will NOT be collected. While this results in a lower tax rate for all Washougal property owners, it contributes to a shortfall in our budget.
This rollback also means that the district must consider reductions in items that are paid for by the levy, since the district will not collect all of the funding that was approved by voters.
Questions from the Community Budget Survey