Vancouver Public Schools

Our 2024-25 Budget Challenge

Balancing our 2024-25 budget

As we plan for next year’s budget, our school board has identified the need for an 8–10% budget reduction. 

We want to make sure we provide you with relevant and timely information as we go through the budget adoption process.  We will continue to have regular updates at board meetings, and will share information and answers to frequently asked questions here so our community is informed and part of this process as we make these very difficult decisions.  

You can help us with this effort by sharing questions, concerns, and ideas.  These will help inform our process moving forward.  Thank you for being committed to the success of Vancouver Public School students. 

Why do we need to make budget reductions?

Some of our revenue sources we have used to bridge the gap between expenditure costs and revenue are going away.

Current funding and expenditures vs Projected Funding and Expenditures

Our budget details

Materials, Services and Non-Staff Resources
Staff Costs pie chart

Budget information shared at our staff meeting

We are sharing this video of the recent all staff meeting where Superintendent Snell discussed budget challenges with employees.

For privacy reasons, we have excluded the employee Q&A segment from the shared content. However, a summary of common questions and answers is provided below.


Frequently asked questions about the 2024-25 budget

  • Enrollment is the primary and largest source of our funding and it is down approximately 5% compared to pre-COVID levels, and more than 8% since 2017-18.  This is largely due to lower birth rates, as we continue to graduate larger classes than our incoming kindergarten classes, although some of it is still due to pandemic-related changes. 
  • Staffing costs (especially in very competitive regional and national labor markets) have dramatically increased faster than state and federal funding increases, which are indexed to inflationary calculations. (SOURCE: OSPI)
  • The cost to provide needed special education services and the complexity of the required supports have grown much faster than state and federal funding and continue to do so at a very rapid rate.
  • Inflation has caused costs for supplies, energy, insurance, and other required expenses to increase dramatically in recent years while there has been little to no adjustment in state funding for these items.
  • Federal COVID relief funds (ESSER) were utilized to temporarily weather the impacts of these increased costs in the short term. The board chose to use these funds in combination with available district cash reserves to sustain staffing and the current level of student services for as long as possible in hopes that additional state funding relief may come before cuts were needed.
  • This statewide challenge with school funding is not unique to VPS and is detailed by our local ESD 112. 

This link shows the gap between basic education state funding and what our staffing costs are projected to be based on 2023-24 budget assumptions.  VPS also significantly subsidizes state and federal funding for special education. Those formulas do not delineate specific special education staffing, so we do not have a good comparison for our special education staffing levels. Local levy funding and most recently fund balance (cash reserves) are the non-state/federal funding used to provide these necessary subsidies.

This link summarizes new investments that were made when ESSER funding became available. Other ESSER funds were utilized to fund existing staff in many categories (teachers, counselors, custodians, etc) for which previous funding was reduced due to enrollment drops during the pandemic. ESSER fund investment decisions were prioritized first to preserve existing staff. New investment proposals were evaluated based on student and staff needs – specifically as they related to new, pandemic-triggered needs/challenges. An example is student advocate positions that were put in place to directly support academic and social-emotional needs of students. 

The statewide transition of school employees to SEBB for employee health insurance created significant cost increases compared to the previous system. Additionally, the McCleary ruling combined with an extremely competitive job market for qualified staff have dramatically increased wage levels. While state funding has also increased at higher-than-normal levels, it has not kept up with the necessary wage increases bargained by all of our employee groups and inflation.

We have decreased the staffing level and costs at central office over the last several years.  This table shows recent trends in Central Office staffing at VPS, along with statewide averages.  We have worked to repurpose previous roles such as Deputy Superintendent to positions that directly support schools with learning and operations.  This analysis does not include teachers on special assignment (TOSAs) which may have desks in the Central Office as their work, and often their funding source, is dedicated to a specific instructional program.

This is difficult to directly compare as many districts have very different structures and job titles than VPS. The VPS administrative organizational chart can be found here. Our intent is to support schools with direct service from our central office administrative staff.  You may be able to find the org chart(s) of other comparable districts on their respective websites, but VPS is not aware of a standardized statewide report with org chart level details or comparisons.

We have instructional hour and day requirements in our state.  We could change the calendar/week to different schedules, but would still need to meet those requirements.  It is unlikely that any type of calendar/week schedule would result in significant savings given the current requirements.

The board has directed district leaders to attempt to apply similar percentages to all basic education staffing groups. When practical, a lower percentage should be applied to staffing categories most closely serving students, with the knowledge that the vast majority of our expenditures are directly serving students. The more detailed, program-level decisions will be informed by the recently-adopted strategic plan, input from staff via Thought Exchange and other survey tools, consultation with student, staff, parent and community advisory groups, and meetings with leaders of all labor groups. 

The board of directors is responsible for approving the final budget. VPS leadership makes recommendations to the board based on cost analyses and feedback from multiple sources. Recommendations are made after consultation with staff, labor leaders, advisory groups (staff, parent, student, and equity) and input from our community.

These decisions will all be difficult because there are no positions or expenses that are not designed to directly or indirectly support students. We use student-centric student information focused on priorities that emerged through our equity policy and strategic plan to help us center our community’s feedback on what they believe offers the most value, and will prioritize supports and services that have the greatest impact on our students.

Unfortunately, the breakdown of our costs doesn’t allow for that to be a realistic approach. Salaries and benefits are about 85% of our budget. Almost all of the remaining 15% goes to non-staffing but essential costs for items required either for safety, essential business requirements or by state mandates. This 15% is reserved for cost items like utilities, property/liability insurance, custodial supplies, software for required state enrollment and fiscal reporting, etc. There is a small portion of ‘discretionary’ non-employee costs which is less than the amount we need to cut to balance the budget.

There are a few factors that create the difference between what the state funds for VPS staffing and actual VPS staffing costs:

  • We employ more positions than the state says we need based on their formula that predicts what a typical school needs – for example, but not limited to, additional teachers to lower class sizes and safety personnel.
  • The actual cost to pay the salary and benefits for each position costs more than the state funds based on the state’s calculation formula.

Our projections for the total cost of our current staffing levels compared to what the state will fund next year (based on 2023-24 budget assumptions) are summarized here. Please note: this summary only includes discrepancies in basic ed funding. VPS, like nearly all other districts, also significantly subsidizes state and federal funding for special education. The state formulas for funding special education do not delineate specific special education staffing, so we do not have a good comparison for our special education staffing levels.


We have been able to maintain higher than state allocated staffing levels the past several years.  We can no longer sustain those levels.  With less staff to serve students, there could be an impact on class sizes, program options, and general services.