Camas School District OKs 2019-20 budget

Reserve funds to cover $4.15 million deficit in $147.9 million budget

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Members of the Camas school board discuss the district's 2019-20 budget at the board's regular meeting on Monday. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

The Camas School District Board of Directors have unanimously approved a 2019-20 budget that includes $4.5 million in expense reductions and a $4.15 million deficit to be covered by reserve funds.

The school board voted 5-0 to approve the $147.9 million budget Monday night, after a public hearing that attracted no public comments.

Jasen McEathron, the school district’s director of business services, told board members in June that the district’s general fund forecast showed expenditures overshadowing revenues by $4.1 million.

On Monday, McEathron said district staff had adjusted the proposed budget to include another $400,000 in general fund expenditures, mostly due to corrections related to the district’s career and technical education (CTE) and special education expenses.

“For a $100 million (general fund) budget, adjusting for $400,000 isn’t too bad,” McEathron said.

The $147.9 million 2019-20 budget approved by board members Monday includes a $101.8 million general fund with a $5.1 million in general fund reserves; $23.2 million capital projects fund; $20.5 million debt service fund — the money used to pay off voter-approved debts; a $900,000 transportation vehicle fund for the district’s school buses; and a $1.5 million Associated Student Body fund, which is money belonging to student groups and student governments used to pay for school-related student clubs and events.

The approved budget forecast includes recommendations from a budget committee formed in January to help the district cope with a projected $8.2 million deficit to its 2019-20 general fund.

In late April, Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell provided the school board with an analysis of the committee’s budget reduction recommendations.

The committee, which met twice a month from January through March, included 17 representatives from diverse groups, including the district’s school board, several unions, the parent-teacher association, the Camas Boosters, the Camas Educational Foundation and a citizen advisory committee.

Based on the committee’s recommendations, district leaders made nearly $4.5 million in cuts before presenting the budget to the board, including: $750,000 in the central office; $1.9 million to certificated teachers; $100,000 in school administration; $440,000 to classified instruction; $420,000 in classified operations; and $850,000 in non-staffing costs.

With steady enrollment and revenue growth slowed by the state’s school funding formula — which constrained districts like Camas to lower-than-normal local levy rates in 2018 and 2019 — the school district is facing future budget deficits if board members don’t increase the school levy.

The school board will soon decide on a 2020 enrichment levy rate. Although Camas voters approved an enrichment levy rate of $3.06 per $1,000 in assessed property value (APV) in 2017, the current levy rate is set at $1.50 per $1,000 APV due to limitations set by the Washington Legislature in 2018. Legislators raised the local school levy cap to $2.50 per $1,000 assessed property value, but not in time to affect Camas’ 2019 levy rates. On Monday, McEathron showed school board members various scenarios related to increasing the levy rate for 2020-21.

Board members must set the levy rate by the end of November.

McEathron said the pros of raising the levy rate include: preserving programs for students; mitigating the district’s reliance on reserve funds; helping stave off future budget cuts; and adding to two years’ worth of financial stability.

Even if school board members raise the local school levy to $2.50 per $1,000 APV, taxpayers would still see a tax decrease in 2021, after existing school bonds have been repaid, McEathron said.

If the board raises the levy rate to $2.50 per $1,000 APV, it would add $3.27 million to the 2019-20 budget and $2.95 million to the 2020-21 budget.