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

State does not fully fund basic education with arrow around icon of state of WA shapeThe 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.

Declining Enrollment

Declining enrollment, three Students playing, with arrow aroundEvery 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.

Inflation

Inflation and arrow pointing up with fuel and dollar symbol, with arrow aroundThe 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.

Levy Rollback

Levy rollback with arrow around icon of dollars in a circle of arrowsVoters 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

Voters approved an Educational Programs & Operations Levy (EP&O) and Capital Levy in April 2023.  This will provide important funds for calendar years 2024, 2025, and 2026.  The district can’t collect all of the funds approved by voters due to a per-student cap on levies, so about $700,000 will NOT be collected the first year of the levy, and is part of why there are budget reductions needed.  Other costs are still increasing, and student enrollment has declined over the past 7 years.  Since we are serving fewer students, we need to make adjustments to reduce expenses, including staff reductions.
Yes. The superintendent has announced that the district will not fill Assistant Superintendent Aaron Hansen’s position when he leaves at the end of the year. As we plan for reductions, there will be additional reductions in administrative positions and reductions in staff who do not work directly with students.

Budgeted expenditure chart, teachers are 50%, Classified are 24%, principals and school leaders are 5%, District leadership is 4%, DO clerical is 2%, utilities, insurance and contracts are 9%, Supplies are 5%, and equipment, training, and travel are 1%.

The district spends about 85% of the budget on staff, with the remaining 15% being on contracts, insurance, fuel, utilities, supplies, student meals, equipment, travel, training and other expenses.

Districtwide leadership, including the superintendent, directors, and program supervisors are 4% of the budget.  School principals and other leaders are 5% of the budget. District office clerical staff, including payroll, accounting, human resources, and others are 2%.


Booster groups can fundraise and provide donations to support specific activities in coordination with the school principal. Our Boosters are amazing at finding creative ways to keep important programs running, and we value their partnership and support of students!

Only districts under 500 students are allowed to apply for a waiver to do a four-day school week for efficiency reasons.  This is part of a state law, RCW 28a.150.222.

The district has been doing this over the past few years, and the ending fund balance, or reserve fund, no longer has enough money left in it to postpone making budget reductions.

This chart shows the historical information related to the ending fund balance, and includes a projection of what would happen if no changes are made.

Graph of ending fund balance from 2013 through 2026 projection, showing decline in fund balance from high of 27% to low of 2% if nothing changes.

State and local funding does not come to the district in equal amounts each month.  In months where state funding is lower, the ending fund balance, or reserve fund, is used to provide cashflow so the district can pay for expenses. Our fund balance currently is below 6%. This means the district may need to borrow funding from our capital fund to pay our payroll.  The school board has authorized an inter-fund loan to provide capacity should this happen, and any capital funds are required to be paid back with interest.

No, any proceeds from the sale of property are required to be deposited into the district’s Capital Project Fund, and the use of those funds is restricted under RCW 28a.320.330.  These funds can then only be used for renovation or replacement of facilities or other capital improvements. Also, the old bus garage is being used for long term storage of district equipment and classroom furniture that is not currently in use, but may be in the future.

The voter approved levy funds which will be used to replace the high school roof have not been collected yet. The Capital levy includes collections for the roof, boilers, flooring, and security projects, but the funds for those projects won’t be collected until 2025 and 2026. These funds are restricted, and can only be spent on the facility improvements voters approved them for. The funds cannot be transferred to the General Fund to help with the budget shortfall.

We will share additional information about project timelines and the public bidding process later this year. We’re excited to have voter support for these important projects, and we will keep you informed when they start.

Work funded by the Capital Levy approved on April 25, 2023 will start in 2024, with the purchase and planned replacement of technology used by teachers and students, and investments in the districts wireless network.  The design, planning, and an RFP for the Washougal High School roof project will begin in calendar year 2024 as well; in 2025, the roof project will be awarded, and work will be completed to ensure the school stays safe and dry. In 2025, we will begin the design, planning and RFP profess for the security door upgrades, ADA entrance installations, HVAC system upgrades and boiler replacements, and replacements of worn-out carpeting and vinyl flooring at our sites. 

No, school board members are volunteers who are elected by the community to govern our district.  Washougal school board members do not receive a salary for this important work.

Washougal School District is one of a number of organizations working together to reduce future costs by investing in the community solar program. The program investment was $8,500.

The investment in the Clark PUD Community Solar program is anticipated to generate a cost savings over the next few years as the panels begin generating electricity. This reduction will reduce future utility costs, and the investment is anticipated more than pay for itself.

Washougal School District has partnered with Clark PUD in the past as part of the CEEP program to increase the efficiency of our lighting system. This work was funded by grant funds, and created an estimated $12,000 in annual utility savings, while also increasing safety around our school campuses.

We are working closely with each of our bargaining groups, including those for administrators, as we plan budget reductions. Building administrators and district leaders agreed to a salary concession in July 2023, receiving less of an increase than was provided to other groups. We will share more information about the specific reductions for each group as we reach agreements in the coming months.
Superintendent Dr. Mary Templeton has volunteered to take a reduction in salary and benefits for the 2024-2025 school year of $20,900. She feels a strong responsibility to share in the sacrifice others are being asked to make.
There are about 18 people that work at the District Office, which includes staff who work part time and not year round. Some staff who support district-wide programs are listed in the Staff Directory on our website, but work at other sites. District Office staff manage board governance, district finances, purchasing, payroll and benefits for staff, human resources, special education, technology, communications, and many other tasks. Staff at the District Office work to keep the district in compliance with local, state, and federal rules and regulations, and support the Washington State Auditor’s Office in the yearly audit of all district finances.

The school board and district leaders are advocating for changes to the state funding model for schools to help with this problem.  The board identified four priorities to advocate with our legislative representatives, which included fully funding special education; student transportation; addressing the gap between the state allocation for fuel, insurance, utilities, and employee health benefits; and advocating for fully funding the cost of staff, noting that the state falls short by over $21,000 on average for teacher compensation compared to what Washougal spends. 

 Our legislators are seeking feedback from community members about their priorities as they start the legislative session, and want to hear from you. If you are interested in reaching out, the Legislative Information Center has ways you can contact your representatives. 

 

State funding for teacher salaries falls short by an average of $21,000 per Washougal teacher. The difference must be made up with local funds.State funding for teachers includes $79944 allocation from the state, but $20,906 must be made up from local funds with illustration of pay

The school board is hosting a Listening Tour about the budget on February 13 and April 9. There is also a Superintendent’s Roundtable event on March 19. Anyone with questions can come to these events and learn about our budget process and share ideas.

Community members, staff, students, or families can also reach out to the Business and Operations Director Kris Grindy, kris.grindy@washougalsd.org to ask questions. You can also schedule a time to meet with Superintendent Dr. Mary Templeton by emailing Kori.Kelly@washougalsd.org to set up a time.