Washougal schools superintendent will take pay reduction ahead of $3M budget cuts

WSD leaders to discuss revenue shortfall, proposed cuts during spring events in March and April

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The Washougal School District (WSD) is planning to reduce Superintendent Mary Templeton’s compensation package by almost $21,000 as part of its efforts to address a $3 million budget shortfall.

Templeton “has volunteered” to reduce her base salary by $7,200 for the 2024-25 school year, according to Les Brown, the district’s director of communications and technology. She will also concede some “vacation buy-back,” resulting in a compensation decrease of $5,906, and waive a contractual salary increase and inflation adjustment, resulting in additional savings of $7,792, he said.

“In addition to reductions in professional development, travel, and professional memberships, my pay cut and pay freeze allow me to demonstrate a willingness to be part of the solution,” Templeton told The Post-Record. “These sacrifices will help us protect staffing and programs that are important to the community. As we make these really difficult decisions, I feel the responsibility to share in the sacrifice I’m asking others to make.”

Templeton made $245,475 during the 2022-23 school year, her fifth year on the job, according to data listed by Washington State Fiscal Information, a government accountability website.

“We’re making sure that everybody is aware that we have approximately $3 million dollars that need to be cut,” Templeton said during the Washougal School Board’s Feb. 13 meeting. “There’s no there’s no easy way to say it. There’s no fun way to say it. It just is. I don’t like saying it, and people don’t like hearing it, but that is our reality, so we must make sure that we attend to our reality and do the hard things.”

During the meeting, district leaders revealed their latest reduction plan, which includes adjustments in the following categories:

• Administration reductions ($484,000, 10.4%): eliminate assistant superintendent position; reduce custodial manager and communications manager positions; implement a pay freeze and cut for superintendent, directors, and supervisors; and reduce board travel, professional development, professional memberships, and superintendent vacation benefit, travel, and training.

• Certified staff reductions ($1.6 million, 6.4%): eliminate 4.6 supervisory teacher-on-special assignment positions, 6.8 secondary certified staff positions, and 4.2 elementary certified staff positions.

• Classified staff reductions ($694,000, 5.3%): eliminate two secretary positions, one attendance coordinator, one transportation staff member, one custodial staff member, one security staff member, one culinary services staff member, and one technology staff member; suspend community education preschool program; reduce highly-capable program administrative support; and implement district office clerical pay freeze.

• Other reductions ($208,000, 2.8%): decline to renew contracts with AVID, PLC@work and EduClimber; reduce employee assistance program, weather forecasting, community newsletters, travel, and professional development; and defer turf replacement project.

The district also proposed to suspend its community education preschool, dual language program expansion plan; reduce Washougal Learning Academy instructional support and highly capable administrative support.

“But the good news, if there’s any good news at all, is that when we make the reductions, we are making them so that classes will feel, for the students’ perspective, similar, and that we are not going to have to experience ginormous class size,” Templeton said. “I’m not going to say that classes will not be a bit bigger because they will, but it’s not going to be so giant that we can’t endure.”

The proposals mirror the results of a survey that the district recently sent out to community members, who indicated a strong preference that the district should reduce more from administrative and district office support, and contracts, services, travel and professional development, and less in certificated staff and classified staff, and maintain student experiences, including activities and athletics.

“The level of service and support from administration is not going to be the same. It’s not going to be the same,” Templeton said. “And what that means is that my team is going to have to figure out the things that we’ve been doing to support the organization and the mission of this district to see every student rise to their full potential, things we are going to have to prioritize as, ‘We can’t do that this time.’ And that’s the hard part. That’s why it weighs heavy on the soul, because we are a team that cares.”

WSD leaders project the school district’s ending general fund balance will drop to 5% by the end of the current school year and to 2% during the 2025-26 and 2026-27 school years. The Washougal School Board’s goal for the fund balance is 6%.

“The board has a policy to pass a budget that reflects at 6% minimum fund balance, and that’s the goal, so we’ll continue to make those round-one adjustments, and that’s significant,” WSD finance director Grindy said during the meeting. “We recognize that. But we also know that there could be a ‘round two.’ We’re doing all of this — the reductions and the reviews and evaluations of resource funds — to avoid getting to a point where we’re down to the 2% (projected for) 2026- 27. This is what would have happened if we did nothing, but we’re working hard to avoid getting to this scenario.”

“Enrollment decline” is a main reason for the shortfall, assistant superintendent Aaron Hansen said during the meeting. The WSD’s enrollment peaked during the 2017-18 school year, when it counted 3,063 students. The district is projecting 2,646 students for the current school year.

The district is also being challenged increased costs for insurance, fuel, utilities, health benefits and food for student meals.

“We currently receive supplemental funds for supply chain resources this current year, but we don’t anticipate receiving those funds next year,” Grindy said. “We also know that (costs are) much greater this year for groceries and utilities, and the state does not keep pace. … Most of those costs are included in fixed costs, so there’s not a lot of room to absorb these inflationary increases without making some additional reductions.”

Grindy explained that, due to the lower enrollment numbers, the district has been unable to collect all of the money from its most recent educational programs and operations levy, which voters approved in April 2023. The district was set to collect $9.5 million in 2024, but will only receive $8.8 million.

“This is something that I think we need to continue to chat about. I think people have a hard time understanding that the voters approved $9.5 million, but we’re not collecting the full amount,” she said “If we could collect the full $9.5 million, I would happily do so. It would make my life a little bit easier right now and everybody else would be impacted. The goal is to collect all the funds that are legally allowed to do so, and we know that based on our enrollment, our per-pupil cap limits us to be able to collect what we have voter approval to collect.”

The district will hold a “superintendent roundtable” event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at its administrative office, and a “board listening tour” event from 3 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Excelsior building at Washougal High School.

WSD leaders talk with legislators

Templeton and board members Chuck Carpenter, Angela Hancock and Ida Royer went to Olympia, Washington, on Monday, Jan. 29, for state government’s annual “Day on the Hill” event, which provides opportunities for school directors, student board representatives, superintendents, and school district business officials to meet with their legislators and/or staff members.

“We met first with Senator (Lynda) Wilson, and she was quite attentive. She listened (to us) and explained in depth the opioid crisis that she was working on,” Carpenter said during the meeting. “From there, we met with Representative Kevin Waters, and he, too, listened quite well, and I think we got our points across, which was that our school district, like so many (others), really needs budgetary support and help in tangible ways from the legislature. Unfortunately, he did not offer any rays of hope, but he did say that he would work on those issues as much as he could.

“We then met with Representative Paul Harris, who also listened well and took good notes and shared with us that at least one of the bills regarding special education will pass because there are five bills, and so the odds are pretty good. He also invited us to appear in the Republican caucus.”

The Board recently approved the district’s 2024 legislative priorities, including full funding for special education, more funds for teacher reimbursement, full funding for school transportation services, and providing for a “gap” in inflated costs.

Templeton said the state’s education-funding model does not fully pay for special education; substitute teacher, transportation operation, and insurance costs; school employee health benefits; and certificated teachers and staff members.

“Yesterday’s dollars, as defined by the McCleary decision (in 2018) do not buy today’s experience in public education,” Templeton said. “(Legislators) have many things that they have to attend to, but at the end of the day, public education is their paramount duty. When the majority of the districts in the state are in a financial crisis, the legislators need to pay attention. I believe that they will eventually come to that understanding.”

For more information about the district’s budget process, visit