Camas School Board passes budget

School officials will use fund balance to cover revenue gap, but say cuts likely in 2023-24

The Camas School Board has approved the school district’s $140.8 million budget for the 2022-23 school year.

Camas School District’s director of business services, Jasen McEathron, said the district’s budget process, which kicked off with a series of budget committee meetings in February, March and April; shifted into budget presentations before the school board in April and June; and culminated on Aug. 22 with a public hearing and the school board’s approval, was designed to engage the school district’s various stakeholders.

“This really harkens back to (former CSD superintendent) Jeff Snell and his desire to increase transparency in the budgeting process,” McEathron said. “This is the culmination of a lot of work. We’ve put a lot of heart and soul into it.”

The approved 2022-23 school year budget includes $140.8 million in expenditures: $119.1 million for the general fund; $13.2 million for the district’s debt services fund; $5.1 million for the capital projects fund (which McEathron said will mainly pay for school building roof repairs and replacements as well as fire system replacements in 2022-23); $2 million in the transport-vehicle fund, used to fund the district’s school bus network; and $1.4 million for the Associated Student Body fund managed by the student-led ASB for activities and events benefitting Camas students.

The district will use $5.8 million of its $18 million fund balance in 2022-23 to help offset a revenue gap while avoiding budget cuts.

McEathron said the district’s preliminary budget, which the school board reviewed in June, had called for using $5.8 million in reserves — instead of the $5.2 million projected earlier in the year – due to some unexpected expenditures, including about $500,000 in adjustments to the Camas Education Association’s salary schedule and $200,000 for changes to the district’s retirement rates.

This means the district will rely more on its fund balance in 2022-23, McEathron said.

The district had planned to balance its budget over a four-year period, using fund balances to help offset budget cuts without dipping below an 8.5% fund balance. Using more of these reserves in 2022-23 could mean more budget cuts in the future, McEathron told school board members on Aug. 22.

“We had anticipated cuts (over the next three years), but with the budget adjustments, we will rely heavier on fund balance. Instead of $5.2 million, it will be $5.8 million. But we’re not using more fund balance in the future. It just means less fund balance in years two (2023-24) and three (2024-25),” McEathron said. “It does put a heavier burden on budget cuts for next year.”

The school district expects to recover its pre-COVID-19 levels of student enrollment, a major driver of revenue thanks to the state’s per-student school funding equations. But McEathron cautioned that student population growth will be slower than the district has experienced before the pandemic.

The district’s data predicts the Camas School District, which had 7,262 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in March 2020, prior to the start of COVID-related school closures, and dipped down to a low of 6,782 students in June 2021, will have 6,927 students at the start of the 2022-23 school year and grow to 7,114 students by the start of the 2025-26 school year.

“Enrollment is critical to our revenues,” McEathron said. “We’re anticipating slow growth over the (next three years). We’re looking at getting back to pre-COVID levels, but it will take some time. I would be pleasantly surprised if enrollment were to grow at a faster pace.”

Expenditures ‘mostly student-focused’

About 88% of the Camas School District’s $119.1 million 2022-23 general fund budget will pay fo the salaries and benefits of the district’s 478.5 FTE certificated staff, which includes teachers as well as 31.5 principal and central office certificated administrator positions; and 286.5 FTE classified staff, which includes the district’s staff members who do not have to be certified, such as bus drivers, janitors and food service workers.

McEathron noted that the district’s general fund revenues come from four sources: state funding (77%), a local levy passed by district voters (16%), local tax revenues (4%) and federal funding (3%), and are 4.6% higher than they were during the 2021-22 school year, but that expenditures are 9% greater than they were in 2021-22.

Of the general fund’s expenditures in 2022-23, 47% will pay for certificated staff salaries, 23% will fund staff benefits, 18% will go toward classified staff salaries, 7% goes toward purchased services, 4% is for materials and supplies and 1% is for capital-related and other expenses.

“Our expenditures are mostly student-focused,” McEathron said. “We invest in our teachers first and foremost, and in our teaching support and other support that ultimately leads to supporting our teachers and our buildings.”

The district will receive $15,797 in revenues for each student and spend $16,488 per student in the 2022-23 school year. Of those expenditures, 61.3% ($10,110) goes toward teaching activities, 12.7% ($2,088) is spent on teaching support, 14.5% ($2,389) is for other support, and 11.5% pays for administrators ($1,009 for school building administrators and $894 for district administrators).

The district’s four-year budget projections show Camas officials will likely use a combination of fund balance reserves, growth restrictions and budget cuts to make up for revenue shortfalls between the 2022-23 and 2025-26 school years.

The projections call for the district to limit expenditure growth to 2% in 2023-24 and to 1% in 2024-25 and 2025-26; limit the use of its general fund balance to $1.2 million in 2023-24, to $1 million in 2024-25 and to $100,000 in 2025-26; and to make $4.6 million in budget cuts in 2023-24.

“These are our guardrails to achieve sustainability as a district,” McEathron wrote in his budget presentation to the school board.

“We have to get stable on our fund balance,” he said during the Aug. 22 meeting. “Eight percent is sufficient to cover our cash flow needs and have a small reserve – not much, though – so hopefully we’ll rebuild it over time.”

The school board voted unanimously to approve the 2022-23 budget on Aug. 22. Board President Corey McEnry said he knew “spending one-third of the fund balance in one year is something that is not to be taken lightly,” and that he hoped district leaders would be able to communicate Camas’ budget constrictions with state legislators ahead of their biennial budget planning in 2023.

“When 88% of our budget is salaries and benefits, you can’t balance the budget” by spending less on supplies or materials,” McEnry said. “There are a lot of things we need to be advocating for at the state level with our legislators … This is a team lift here.”

The district’s new superintendent, John Anzalone, who came on board July 1, said he was impressed by the district’s commitment to serving its students and thought the budget exemplified these efforts.

“It is clear to me that student focus is in this budget,” Anzalone said on Aug. 22. “The money is funneling almost directly into the classroom, which is great, but also makes it more challenging when we have to have cuts … you can see how valuable human capital is in this district.”

To view the 2022-23 Camas School District budget, visit tinyurl.com/4dwfhm39.