Vancouver Public Schools forecasts a budget shortfall for 2019-20 of at least $11.44 million. The shortfall is due to the state-legislated cap on local education and operation levies (ESSSB 6362) as well as a recent contract settlement with the Vancouver Education Association and a tentative agreement with the Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals.

Total contractual obligations will cost $20.5 million for VEA and $3 million for VAESP. Negotiations with the Service Employees International Union will begin this spring. Based on current projections, district revenue sources will be insufficient to cover the full cost of those contracts.

At today’s meeting, the VPS Board of Directors approved a resolution authorizing Superintendent Steve Webb to study the need for a reduced education program in 2019-20 and to recommend necessary budget cuts.

“Effective immediately, VPS will enact belt-tightening measures to soften the effects of budget reductions next school year,” said Webb. “We will freeze hiring for positions that are non-mission critical and reduce non-personnel expenses (e.g., materials, supplies, travel and operating costs). These measures will generate approximately $1.5 million in projected cost savings that can be applied to the 2019-20 budget.”

In addition, the district will use $2.25 million from its ending fund balance, or financial reserve, to help address the shortfall. But without further legislative changes and/or more state funding, VPS will need to make budget cuts, including workforce reductions, to balance revenue and expenses in 2019-20.

At the board’s direction, Webb will lead a process to review enrollment projections, staffing allocations, ending fund balance, state appropriations and other information. Employee associations, district advisory groups and other stakeholders will have opportunities to provide input during the process. Webb will provide budget recommendations to the board by no later than March 31.

“It’s unfortunate that VPS has been put in this fiscal position by the public policy legislated through ESSSB 6362,” said Rosemary Fryer, VPS board president. “If we don’t have a legislative solution to the ‘McCleary fix’, many school districts across the state will face similar consequences—deep cuts in programs and services to balance budgets into the future.”