The Longview School District is proposing a $109 million budget and is ready to hear reactions from community members at Monday’s public hearing.
The school board is scheduled to finalize the budget on Aug. 22 during the regular school board meeting.
Despite higher expenses and lower enrollment, the district hopes to break even with revenue from local taxes, state general funds and federal COVID-19 relief funding received through ESSER or the Emergency Aid Fund for primary and secondary schools.
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“We are able to present a balanced budget using those ESSER dollars to stabilize the revenue shortfall that would come from the enrollment declines that we have seen,” said Patti Bowen, executive director of business services, during a budget presentation on past past month.
In 2021-22, the state provided stabilization funds to cover the loss of full-time students enrolled in the district. Bowen said the Longview School District was not eligible for it because the district got federal money through ESSER.
“Enrollment is our biggest revenue generator,” Bowen said. “The average FTE (full-time enrollment) is what we fund ourselves for the whole year.”
Most of the district’s per-student funding comes from the state, according to the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. district report card. Longview schools are reporting some of the lowest enrollment rates since 2010-11, according to district data.
The district lost about 350 of its approximately 6,400 students between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years, according to school district data. Since 2010, the only other non-pandemic years where enrollment fell below 6,300 were 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Longview schools anticipate about 70 students returning at the start of the next school year, according to district data. The refund will not match 2019 enrollment, which had been at 6,488 students before the pandemic.
It is difficult for the district to identify why students are leaving, where they have gone, and whether enrollment will return to previous levels. Bowen said students could have moved away or started homeschooling, and projections about future enrollment could change.
The district you spend your money on next school year will remain the same, but how much has changed. The largest increases in spending are expected to go to basic and special education programs.
if you go
What: Longview School District public comment hearing for preliminary budget.
when: 6:30 p.m. during Monday’s board meeting.
where: 2715 Lilac St., Longview, or attend virtually by calling 1-253-215-8782 or by clicking longview122.zoom.us/j/4756240311 and enter meeting ID 475 624 0311 and password 862814.
Bowen said inflation and supply chain delays have led to increased nutrition and transportation expenses in the district, and the district will spend about $640,000 more on these support services in 2022-23 than in 2021 -22.
The district also expects to lose about $3.1 million in revenue from district grants and non-core education programs in 2022-23, according to school board documents.
Still, Bowen said that with ESSER’s one-time boost that can be spent before September 2024, they don’t anticipate losing money.
However, the next four years could pose a financial problem if the district doesn’t adjust spending and enrollment doesn’t bounce back. The district projects its total ending fund balance will go from $9.65 million at the end of the 2023 school year to $3.28 million at the end of the 2025 school year.
“This is not a surprise, we knew we were going to struggle on this,” said board member Jennifer Leach. “I think the ESSER funds gave us a bit of a buffer for a while, so I think we just have to keep looking year to year.”
Superintendent Dan Zorn said they will continue to work to balance the budget, noting that the four-year projections show a general but not specific trend that assumes the district will continue to operate exactly as it always has.
Longview School District, contributed
“We fully recognize that there is work to be done as we move forward on this,” Zorn said during the council meeting. “There are many things that can affect income and expenses between now and then.”
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