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.