Snoqualmie Valley School District approves budget with $2 million deficit; losses could increase another $6-7 million due to Covid-19

It’s no secret that schools are struggling to figure out how to fulfill their budgets through the financial difficulties that remote instruction and decreasing student enrollment bring. These issues are hitting close to home, with the Snoqualmie Valley School District facing these arduous  circumstances. 

With the start of the new school year rapidly approaching, SVSD is getting a clearer view of the lay of the land for the 2020-21 school year and beyond. Unfortunately, the view isn’t great given the big deficit the newly approved budget brings.

At the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board Meeting on August 27th, the School Board voted unanimously to approve the proposed 2020-21 budget, including a $2.2 million loss that will be covered by district reserves.

The meeting covered topics from staffing salaries, unemployment expenses, several different funds, budget summaries and a 4-year forecast of expected funding among other topics.

As stated in the meeting, the Snoqualmie Valley School District expects their total revenue to total $111,575,059 whereas their total expenditures will fall around $113,855,642 – leaving an evident overall deficit.

But that deficit could increase over the next month. At the meeting, the budget presentation revealed how the recent withdrawal of students, along with other Covid-related issues, may significantly hurt their bottom line.

For kindergarten to 5th grade enrollment, the district is 260 students short for meeting budget estimates, whereas for sixth to eighth grade, the district is 20 students short. Whether the high school enrollment will be short is to be discovered as student schedules have yet to be determined.

Assistant Superintendent Stokes stressed that student enrollment is still an estimate and remains un-finalized as new students could move into the district and other students could return if/when in-person learning re-starts. Enrollment numbers are typically reported to the state in October.

Overall, based on current enrollment predictions, the district is about 9% short, equivalent to roughly 280 students. The Board, though, reminded that by comparison some districts are nearly 15% short on enrollment. 

Lower district enrollment results in lower revenue. In total, decreased SVSD enrollment could result in a $2.5 million funding loss for the 2020-21 school year.

At the meeting, the impact Covid-19 has had on the budget was highlighted. For example, Covid-19 significantly harms the transportation department, as its funding is determined by the levels of ridership. Due to the district’s 100% online learning method, there could be an unprecedented lack of revenue coming to the transportation department – possibly totaling a $1.5 – $2 million loss.

The district stressed that retaining current bus drivers is crucially important as there’s a statewide driver shortage and they want to ensure they have needed bus drivers when schools reopen.

Between declining enrollment and potential transportation funding losses, the budget approved last night with a $2.2 million deficit could increase by an additional $4.5 million. And, if the district sees additional state funding losses for its food services department, the deficit could grow by another $1 million.

In fact, during the meeting when asked by Board President Carolyn Simpson if a worst case scenario for the budget deficit was another $6-7 million, Assistant Superintendent Stokes said yes.

In regard to general budget expenditures, there’s a $5.3 million increase from the previous year in staffing and benefits costs, while there’s a decrease of $980,000 in materials, supplies and other costs from the previous year. 

The district has also budgeted the purchasing of PPE and the hiring of extra janitors to assist with sanitizing classrooms if/when the district converts to the hybrid model.

According to the Board, they are awaiting the new state legislative session in hopes that legislation will be passed to help maintain current funding to the transportation department during Covid-19 times.

The Snoqualmie Valley School Board says the budget will be an ongoing topic at meetings this year – and that the community can look for budget and enrollment updates at next month’s meeting on September 10th.

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  • I’m guessing that the fatcat consulting firm that gave them the big thumbs up on building a bazillion dollar high school neglected to factor in SHTF as a line item.

  • Teacher Unions once again prove their greediness. Remember this next time they strike.

  • “Overall, based on current enrollment predictions, the district is about 9% short, equivalent to roughly 280 students.” The math here is off – with total District enrollment of 6,921 students last year, a 9% enrollment decline is about 623 students fewer, not 280. Of course, it will likely be weeks or months before we see how many families withdraw and where the numbers land. But based on information shared with families these past weeks, the District has dramatically improved the Distance Learning programs. Hopefully families will be able to adapt their work/home schedules to take advantage of all the tremendous work that has gone into revamping them.

  • How can not running buses cost the district up to $2 million?

    Something is missing in the explanation.

    1. From the article, they aren’t laying off the drivers, so their wages aren’t getting cut. Maintenance on the buses needs to continue, so the maintenance staff remains. And, something not mentioned in the article, “bus rot” is real – they need to actually operate the buses to keep them in working order, and ready for when school restarts. Essentially, they are running the buses. Just running them less. So, you are right, the diesel costs are going to be lower.

      1. They don’t run buses over the summer to keep them operating. Maintenance is zero if they aren’t using them.

        The buses sitting idle will fire up just fine a few months from now.

        This is pure government waste, no business would do this because they have shareholders to report too.

        What about the savings from cafeteria staff, janitorial, building maintenance. They should be giving tax payers refunds, not wasting money.

        Prediction: Bond in 2021 to cover the costs of money wasted due to Covid.

  • Could swear we were told vote to legalize marijuana and the money can go to schools. Yet 58% of our property taxes is school money. Pretty close to the state tax on marijuana. Now is definitely a good time to start spreading all that money around.

  • I made a comment but it has not been approved. Can you please post it? I have changed my contact email below so hopefully that will help get through your security.
    Your math is wrong….’Overall, based on current enrollment predictions, the district is about 9% short, equivalent to roughly 280 students.’ There are 6,900 students so 9% would be over 620.
    Can you find my comment and post it? Thanks!

  • Amazing how the schools managed to spend more money when they were closed than when they were open!

    1. Yep, closing cafeterias, reduced need for building maintenance, reduced need for janitorial, utilities reduced.

      Nope government tells you the opposite because it is not their money.

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