The Camas School District has posted its proposed 2022-23 budget, as well as its projected budgets for the 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years, on the district’s website.
The Camas School Board will hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed 2022-23 budget at its board meeting on Monday, Aug. 22.
Next year’s budget “represents an important transition point as the district continues to identify the post-COVID norm,” the district stated in an introduction to the 2022-23 proposed budget.
The 2022-23 budget projects the district will spend $118.5 million from its general fund over the next school year, “driven primarily by personnel costs,” with about 88% of the district’s 2022-23 general fund expenditures paying the salaries and benefits for 482 certificated and 284 classified staff members, with the remaining 12% paying for materials, supplies and other costs.
“While the budget contains minimal staffing growth, record inflation is driving increases in both personnel costs and supplies (and) services,” the district stated in its 2022-23 budget introduction.
The district’s 2022-23 expenditures will likely increase 6.6% over the 2021-22 costs.
The school board is expected to approve using $5.2 million from the district’s general fund reserves to help cover its 2022-23 expenses, which would draw the school district’s fund balance down to $12.8 million going into the 2023-24 school year.
The district’s finance director, Jasen McEathron, told the school board in April that decreased enrollment rates are leading to “a new age for the Camas School District.”
“Enrollment is the single biggest thing that drives our funding … We were experiencing 2.5 percent growth before the (COVID-19) pandemic. Now we’re forecasting pretty modest growth over the course of the next four years, from 0.65 to 0.8 percent per year, so it’s definitely different,” McEathron told the board on April 18.
The school district expects to have 6,927 full-time equivalent (FTE) students, excluding 175 Running Start students for the 2022-23 school year.
The new enrollment forecast shows the Camas School District’s student enrollment is expected to grow again, but much slower than in the pre-pandemic years. Though the pandemic caused some Camas families to withdraw their students from public schools, McEathron said the forecasted enrollment slowdown is also due to factors that existed even before the pandemic.
“Birth rates are down and the cost of housing in Camas is very expensive,” McEathron said. “So we cannot expect to see 2.5 percent growth. We were already on a pathway for enrollment to slow down, and that was going to change our revenue curve.”
The drop in enrollment means Camas school officials are facing revenue decreases since most state funding is tied to a district’s student enrollment numbers.
McEathron said that, while the district may be able to garner some additional revenue from the state if legislators approve additional money for school districts like Camas that employ more experienced — and therefore higher-paid — teachers, Camas school board members will still have to grapple with revenues in the coming years that are lower than the district’s expenditures.
“I love to provide pathways and solutions, but this one is tough,” McEathron said in April of the district’s impending revenue shortfalls. “There’s not one (budget scenario) that doesn’t come without some sacrifices or some pain or organizational strife. It’s the situation we’re in – we have to adjust to the new funding model.”
The 2022-23 budget includes revenues the district has received from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic, but McEathron said those revenues will likely not be available after the 2022-23 school year.
“Over the past two years the district has received $9.8M in one-time COVID relief and stimulus money. These one-time funds will decline significantly in 2022-23, and we do not expect them to be a factor in our revenue model beyond 2022-23,” the district stated in its introduction to the proposed 2022-23 budget.
A $17.45 million local enrichment levy — part of the three-year replacement levy passed by Camas School District voters in February 2021 — accounts for nearly 16% of the district’s 2022-23 revenues and will help the district pay for additional staff positions, pay and benefits ($10.5 million), special services ($3.2 million), extracurricular activities such as sports programs ($2.05 million), food services ($1.05 million) and transportation ($625,903).
“About 77% of our revenues come from the state of Washington, with a small portion from the federal government, so the local levy is an important piece of our revenue budget,” McEathron said.
The district will likely ask voters to approve a three-year replacement levy in 2024.
Cost-containment measures, budget cuts expected after 2022-23
The school district’s budget committee, which includes union representatives, school board liaisons, community members and representatives from the Camas Boosters, Camas Educational Foundation and parent-teacher association, has recommended using $8 million from the district’s fund balance reserves — including $5.2 million in 2022-23 — along with cost containment strategies and budget cuts to help offset revenue shortfalls over the next four years.
“Once you use your fund balance in the first year, cost containment should take over. (The committee) realized the effect budget cuts would have on staff and students, so they wanted to use cost-containment levers where possible,” ,” McEathron told school board members in April. “The rationale was that we’re still in a pandemic. We’re not out of it. We’re not in a position to say we definitely know what our operations will be next year, so using fund balance allows us to maintain the operational level where we’re at right now and not make any significant changes.”
The budget committee also wanted to see a balanced budget by 2025-26. To balance the budget before the 2025-26 school year, the district is planning to:
- use $8 million from its nearly $18 million in reserves ($5.2 million in 2022-23, $1.8 million in 2023-24 and $1 million in 2024-25); cap salary increases to 2% during the 2023-24 school year and to 1% during both the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years;
- make $3.9 million in budget cuts ($0.6 million in 2022-23 and $3.3 million in 2023-24); and
- maintain a minimum fund balance of 8%.
The district’s four-year budget forecast shows decreases in staffing levels after 2022-23, dropping from 482 certificated — including 31.5 principal and central office certificated administrators — and 284 classified employees in 2022-23 to 460 certified and 265 classified employees in 2023-24, and to 450 certificated and 255 classified employees in 2024-25 and 2025-26.
To see the proposed 2022-23 budget and the district’s forecasted four-year budget through 2025-26, visit sites.google.com/camas.wednet.edu/budget-finance/home