Vancouver schools face decline in student enrollment, budget shortfall

Projected budget shortfall now expected to be $14.3 million

VANCOUVER — Vancouver Public Schools is anticipating a decline in student enrollment for the 2019-20 school year that will further compound a projected budget shortfall. The district’s enrollment analysis is consistent with projections independently gathered periodically by local demographer Eric Hovee of E.D. Hovee and Company. A decrease of 458 full-time equivalent students is expected to add another $2.3 million to a projected budget deficit of $12 million.  

Initially, the district’s projected shortfall was nearly $10.7 million for 2019-20 due to a capped local levy rate and fewer state levy equalization dollars, which are part of the state’s new funding formula for K-12 education.

Last month, VPS announced a projected budget deficit of nearly $12 million after contract settlements with Vancouver Education Association and Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals.

With the anticipated decline in student enrollment, the new projected budget deficit is $14.3 million dollars for 2019-20. Last night’s passage of the education/operations and technology levies will not mitigate this shortfall.

The district is responding to the deficit with initial budget cuts of $3.9 million in central administrative services. Another $3.8 million will come from the reserve fund balance.

Further reductions will be made in school-based services and staffing to cover the remaining $6.6 million shortfall. A district team that includes leaders from bargaining groups will review contractual obligations. Following that review, a proposal for school-based reductions will be brought to the board of directors at its Feb. 26 school board meeting.

“These are incredibly difficult choices, and I am deeply frustrated that the legislature’s response to the McCleary lawsuit has worsened our fiscal position. Our employees do amazing work with our students and families every day,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “However, the district is obligated by law to maintain a balanced budget. We must be fiscally responsible with the money that has been allocated to us. We are not alone in this dilemma. School districts across the state are facing the same tough decisions.”

Overall, the projected $14.3 million budget shortfall for 2019-20 will be addressed in the following manner:

  • Approximately $3.8 million will be generated from the 2019-20 fund balance. Because this is one-time money, that part of the shortfall must be addressed again in the 2020-21 budget.  
  • An estimated $3.9 million will come from cost savings in central administrative services staffing and program reductions.
  • Approximately $6.6 million will be generated through SCHOOL-BASED reductions yet to be determined. Roughly half of the staffing cuts could be made through retirements and resignations.

Information provided by Vancouver Public Schools.

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