Chief Fiscal Officer Brett Blechschmidt presented the final budget recommendations for 2017-18 to the Vancouver School District Board of Directors on July 17 following the release of the state consensus budget on June 30. On the revenue side of the budget, highlights are increased state funding to lower K-3 class sizes, avoidance of the “levy cliff” and targeted state investments in programs serving students with special needs. However, added expenses in smaller class-size and other unfunded staffing costs result in an overall one-year shortfall in state funding of about $2.8 million. Superintendent Steve Webb prefaced the budget report with the following comments.
“As you know, the state released the details of the consensus budget on June 30 avoiding a state government shutdown. Additionally, part of the biennial consensus budget deal was a compromise McCleary basic education funding package.
“The timing of the release and complexity of the budget deal has put enormous pressure and stress on school districts across the state, at a time when districts are understaffed due to the summer holiday, as we attempt in a very limited time frame to understand what the implications are for this next fiscal year and beyond.
“I want to acknowledge and thank Brett and team for their quick work. Today, we are presenting a final set of budget recommendations for the board to consider. Absent any additional directions, we’ll operationalize this budget for board consideration at our first board meeting in August, after the public hearing.
“I want to emphasize that because of sound, prudent, strategic and multi-year fiscal planning, our recommendations enable VPS to address a budget shortfall next year utilizing one-time ending fund balance revenues as a bridge until we begin receiving McCleary compensation funding. Unfortunately, many districts will not be able to use this type of temporary solution. Districts had anticipated some McCleary compensation funding in 2017-18. This does not materialize until the second year of the biennial budget.
“By spending down our reserves by approximately $2.8 million—or approximately 1 percent—it will enable the district to continue to provide full programs and services to our students and honor collective bargaining agreements.”
Said Board director Kathy Gillespie about the state consensus budget, “I just think that Vancouver tells the truth, so when we read in the newspapers, or we hear our legislators telling us of the great, good work they’ve done in fully funding education, it’s actually not true. They haven’t fully funded the expenses of basic education. Our tax payers should know that the requirement to dip into our ending fund balance, which we responsibly established, is solely because the legislature failed to do the job that’s required by the state constitution.”