VPS final recommended budget steers clear of cuts to student services

An advisory group warns use of one-time funding could simply push tough decisions down the road to next year

VANCOUVER — After taking public input into consideration, VPS officials will recommend on May 28 that the school board address an $8 million budget shortfall for 2019-20 in ways that preserve direct services to students. But a district advisory group is concerned that the use of one-time money from the state and the district’s financial reserve will result in another large shortfall for 2020-21.

A sign points to the Vancouver Public Schools administration building on Falk Road. Photo by Chris Brown
A sign points to the Vancouver Public Schools administration building on Falk Road. Photo by Chris Brown

VPS initially projected a total budget shortfall of $16.8 million for next year. Approximately $2.3 million was due to a forecasted decline in student enrollment. District officials said that they would adjust staffing to cover that part of the deficit. A one-time appropriation of $6.5 million in state levy equalization assistance further reduced the shortfall to $8 million.

Over the past few weeks, VPS conducted an online budget survey with more than 1,800 respondents, solicited written correspondence to the superintendent and the board of directors, listened to constituents testifying at board meetings and met with a district advisory group composed of parents and business and community leaders. Based on that input, a preliminary/recommended list of $8 million in potential budget reductions was revised to include mainly cuts from central administrative services and a drawdown of the district’s financial reserves.

The VPS management task force, a longstanding district advisory group chaired by John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and associate publisher and owner of the Vancouver Business Journal, concluded that the final budget recommendations are consistent with the community survey results. Survey respondents showed a strong preference for minimizing the impact of budget reductions on direct services to students.

But the district advisory group noted that VPS is relying on $6.5 million in one-time state levy equalization assistance and $3.75 million in one-time district money from the ending fund balance to close the funding gap.

“The task force supports the final budget recommendations, but we are concerned that the use of $10.25 million in one-time money only pushes much of this problem down the road for a year,” said McDonagh. “We advise the superintendent and his team to identify a sustainable revenue source, including a possible supplemental levy measure, to meet the district’s financial needs in 2020-21 and beyond.”

The final budget recommendations include the following:

  • One-time use of ending fund balance, or financial reserves ($3.75 million)
  • 10 centrally budgeted teachers on special assignment ($1,266,667)
  • Five percent reduction in central office/support services budgets ($1.2 million)
  • 15 percent reduction in central office administrative positions ($800,000)
  • Five central office professional-technical positions ($450,000)
  • 50 percent reduction in travel for professional development ($400,000)
  • One grounds maintenance position ($75,000)
  • One wing clerk position ($58,608)

The superintendent and his team will present the final budget recommendations to the board on May 28 at a work session scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Bates Center for Educational Leadership, 2921 Falk Rd.

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