From Stanwood-Camano School District
Last week, the budget update recapped how the McCleary decision impacted school finances across the state.
This week, we look at how the global COVID pandemic also affected school budgets.
In the early months of the pandemic, schools largely went to remote teaching and didn’t spend money in the same ways as in the past. The school district spent less on fuel for buses, student supervision, and serving meals.
Meanwhile, the federal government stepped in, giving districts money to make sure students were being served as best as possible during the pandemic. Districts spent that money in a variety of ways throughout the education system — some on personal protective equipment, nursing services, and services to support accelerated learning when students returned to in-person school.
The combination of increased federal money and savings on some operational costs during the pandemic helped to mask the relatively stagnant state funding — largely due to decreased enrollment and McCleary changes detailed in last week’s update.
Now, the extra federal money has mostly run its course, and the district is largely back to its “normal,” pre-COVID expenditures, plus additional costs due to supply chain disruptions and inflation.
The combination of changes all happening at once have added up to force districts — including here in Stanwood-Camano — to make some tough budget decisions.
This school year’s budget is forecast to spend about $4 million more than the district is collecting from its revenue sources, and the gap will grow next year unless revenues increase or expenditures decrease.
The district is using some of its available general fund balance to cover the difference this year — something that can only be done once, akin to dipping into the family savings account in an emergency.
The district also has been actively making budget cuts during this school year to help minimize future reductions. At the same time, we will keep a watchful eye on possible funding changes from the state Legislature that could help or complicate our financial planning.
In next week’s budget report, we will take a look at the current Stanwood-Camano School District budget and some of our efforts moving forward.