$8 million shortfall expected next year

In August, superintendent warned ‘budget cuts would need to be considered’

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A member of the Camas School District’s budget committee told Camas school board members Monday the committee is addressing the district’s looming 2019-20 budget deficits.

“(At our last meeting), we did a quick and dirty vote to get a sense from the group about how we’re thinking about cuts — everything from passing the full impact of the state’s new financing system on through to the Camas school budget through using up our fund balance,” committee member Mindy Stadtlander said. “Everyone was in the middle. There was a nice range. Nobody thought we should be at one extreme or the other.”

In an email sent to school district stakeholders and families in early March, Superintendent Jeff Snell said the committee had reviewed revenue and expenditure forecasts and predicted an $8 million shortfall in the 2019-20 school year budget.

“For context, our overall annual budget is approximately $100 million,” Snell stated in his email. “We have come together as a community before in times of budget challenges and will do so again. Our commitment is to develop a budget that reflects the values we’ve established as a school district. We face difficult decisions that require collaboration and thoughtfulness.”

Snell has warned about budget shortfalls before, writing in a guest column published in the Aug. 30, 2018 Post-Record, just a few days before school district administration came to a bargaining agreement with the Camas teachers’ union, that the state legislature’s “McCleary fix” meant to make funding for school districts more equitable had reduced Camas’ ability to supplement state funds with voter-approved levy resources had been cut in half.

Complicating the problem even more was something the Camas district had always prided itself on — its ability to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Under the new “McCleary fix” approved by lawmakers in 2018, the state would fund $73,042 per teacher in Washington state during the 2018-19 school year. But, Snell pointed out in his opinion column, the average Camas teacher earned $76,253.

“This means, without any wage increase, there is already a $3,211 deficit per full-time teach in Camas this year,” Snell stated.

In part to avoid a teacher strike and start school on time in 2018, Camas administrators agreed to a bargaining agreement that increased teacher pay and added a “longevity stipend.” In the contract’s second year, entry-level teachers with a bachelor’s degree will earn $52,868 for a 180-day work year while teachers who have 15 or more years experience and a master’s degree plus 90 continuing education credits will make $100,110 per year.

The pay increases, combined with levy fund restrictions meant Camas would face budget shortfalls, Snell warned in August 2018.

“Without any way to raise additional funding for our schools or our teachers, budget cuts would need to be considered in order to provide the requested wage increase,” he stated.

Stadtlander told the school board Monday that the budget committee, which includes parents, community members and representatives from each of the district’s employee associations, has been meeting since early January to develop a set of considerations for the 2019-20 budget.

“The committee is thinking ahead about any adverse impacts any decisions that (we) make will have on the budget,” Stadtlander said.

District dinged on audit for $111 miscalculation

The Camas School District will receive an audit with a finding of non-compliance from the Washington State Auditor Office.

Snell, along with the district’s director of business services, Jasen McEathron, informed the district’s board of directors about the audit at the school board meeting Monday.

The full audit report is expected to be released this week.

The finding stemmed from a verification process error concerning free and reduced lunches.

McEathron told The Post-Record Tuesday the overall audit score was typical of the district’s past audits and that two of the three audit reports “were clean.”

“The third report involved compliance with federal grant requirements,” McEathron said. “For the grant they selected a nutrition services grant and there was an issue in that report that had to do with the verification of free and reduced lunch applications.”

McEathron said the district made an error with the verification process of one student’s application for free and reduced lunch. The error resulted in a discrepancy of $111.

“There’s a verification process they go through, and they found an error in our process and reported it as an internal control weakness,” he said. “The error involved one student’s application for free and reduced lunch assistance. Our verification process used the net income figure as opposed to the gross income figure. That difference removed the student from eligibility status. The student received free lunches equivalent to $111.”

McEathron said the district will submit a notice of corrective action to the auditor’s office as part of its response to the issue.

“We’ve revamped our procedures, and we’ve done internal auditing procedures,” he said. “We’re also providing training to employees responsible for the compliance area. We look at this as an opportunity to get better. We’ll refine our processes, and we feel confident that there won’t be issues in the future in this area.”

Athletes, classified staff recognized

In recognition of Classified Employee Appreciation Week, Snell read a proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, then provided some praise about his district’s classified staff members.

“They are diverse in types of roles and expertise. They always have a smile on their face and a kind hand,” he said. “They’re amazing people, and I’m happy to recognize them.”

The district’s athletic secretary, Marcia Johnson, was presented with a Mill Town Pride award in recognition of her efforts to assist than 1,000 athletes on 45 different teams.

Snell read a letter written by Rory Oster, athletic director at Camas High School, about Johnson.

“She is the motor of Papermakers athletics,” Oster stated in his letter. “She’s one of the greatest administrative assistants and one of the greatest professionals I have ever been around. I have no doubt that she’ll be Papermakers Hall of Fame inductee one day for everything she does.”

The school board also honored Camas High’s winter sports state champions — wrestlers Tanner Craig and Gideon Malychewski, and the Papermakers’ gymnastics team — on Monday.

Craig, who won his second consecutive 4A state championship last month, told the board he’s going to continue his wrestling career at Army.

“This was a fun season,” he said. “Gideon and I won (state titles), and we had two others who were finalists. We had a small team, but we did well at our invitationals.”

Camas gymnastics coach Carol Willson told the board she “sees bright things ahead” in the team’s future.

“I don’t see us going downhill anytime soon,” she said. “We have a young team with a lot of up-and-comers. Camas will be very well represented.”

Roof replacement approved

The board approved a motion to award a contract to Paul Davis Restoration for $26,360 for the replacement of a Skyridge Middle School greenhouse roof damaged during a February storm.

~ Editor Kelly Moyer contributed to this article.