These are questions that Lacamas Magazine asked Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell regarding the considerations from the special volunteer budget committee, which was organized to analyze how to best resolve the district’s $8.2 million budget deficit. Here are his answers.
What steps are being taken based on budget committee considerations?
First, we looked across the system for efficiencies, reducing supply budgets and things like that. We talked in the budget committee about distributing reductions across the system so we looked at certificated, classified and central office staffing, as well as unrepresented staff.
In the committee, we explored the state prototypical school funding model. We’re overstaffed in certain areas by state standards such as certificated staff, but we feel we’re staffed appropriately. We looked at TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignments). These positions are not funded by the state so there’s a reduction there. We looked at the elementary, middle, and high school class sizes which are addressed in the teachers’ contract. At elementary that’s 24, then 30 for middle school, and 31 for high school and we run schedules with those targets in mind. We found capacity in that while keeping those targets in play. We realized some reductions there.
From a student and family standpoint, we might be from 21 now to 23 in the ratio of students to certificated staff in a school. We’ve been able to run a small highly specialized class as needed, and it makes it more difficult to do that now.
Overload occurs when we exceed those class size targets as defined in our collective bargaining agreement. On a spreadsheet the students are divided evenly, but the reality is that doesn’t always happen. We may have more kindergartners than first graders, for example. Teachers can get a variety of remedies to address overload such as additional staff assistants. Each year overload is something that needs to be addressed. It may become a bigger problem next school year. In August, it’s possible that more students will enroll than anticipated. If that’s the case, we would need to consider adding staff.
Classified. We’re not really overstaffed based on the prototypical model. It was challenging to find efficiencies there. We looked specifically at retirements and resignations. If we have a custodian retiring, could we possibly not fill that position recognizing services would be reduced? In transportation, we are finding savings by adjusting some routes.
Our facilities are well taken care of. We have a great crew, but, again, we may have to change the level of service moving forward.
Most of the certificated reductions will be addressed through retirements, resignations, and staff who were on one-year contracts.
Twenty-two FTE teaching positions are being eliminated. It’s spread across the levels, elementary, middle and high school and teachers on special assignment.
Six central office staff positions are being eliminated. Six support staff positions are being eliminated.
We don’t have the number on non-instructional staff.
To balance the $8.2 million deficit, CSD is eliminating $4.6 million in position and non-staff reduction, and we are taking $3.7 million out of the fund balance, which leaves our fund balance at about 5 percent, which is approximately $5 million.
All the details have to be worked out by May 15, and we’re working with CEA.
How does SB5313 affect Camas? Will it increase levy authority for CSD in 2019? Do we know yet how it will affect us?
What it does is it raises our authority to collect additional local funds to $2.50 per $1,000 assessed value. It’s a change from the model that was rolled out last year. We also receive some state subsidy dollars for levy called Local Effort Assistance that may be affected in the change. We are waiting for clear direction from the state about this.
We have an approved levy in place and we want our citizens to know what’s happening. We want to be transparent with the public about where their tax dollars are going. We will get guidance on how to use this new authority. January 1, 2020, is when we could start collecting on the new levy, should the school board determine to do so.
Regarding the school employee benefits board decision, between now and then more information will be need to be made public.
Did the legislature fail to fund special education this session? My research shows they don’t include special education under basic education.
It initially looks they funded more special education dollars, but there’s still a gap. OSPI estimated $240 million more was needed to fully fund special education. We think the new legislation could give us $500,000 to help fund special education in Camas, but we’re not sure yet. The details should be available in the coming months.
Agencies will help interpret the legislation first. ESD 112 has provided a lot of support to us.
What are the major parts of the 2019 Legislative session that disappoint you?
Special education — such a common need across the state. I was hoping there would be more revenue in that. Overall, the session didn’t significantly change our situation for the short-term.
We planned for the worst, and I don’t think the worst happened. A couple big variables are still ahead of us that we need to navigate including levy authority and the impact of the new model for school employee benefits.
Our budget committee has invested a ton of time trying to sort through this, and they gave us guidance through a very complicated situation. We’ll keep coming back to them as we navigate those variables in the future.
To learn more, visit www.camas.wednet.edu