Wenatchee School Budget Cuts Ahead Of Schedule, Jobs Cuts Coming
The Wenatchee School District is ahead of schedule in making budget cuts to make up for a funding shortfall.
The latest estimate presented to the school board by Interim Superintendent Bill Eagle Tuesday shows the budget will be reduced by about $200,000 more than originally targeted for the next school year.
"That will help with the reductions that will need to be made in the future," said Eagle. "The more we can do this year, the easier it's going to be next year as we continue to need to make reductions."
The district is trying to shave off more than $8 million from its budget over the next two school years, including $4.84 million in the next year. Budget reduction efforts started in February
Shrinking enrollment is forcing the cuts at Wenatchee schools.
Enrollment has been a chronic problem over the last decade, dropping by 751 students between 2015 and 2023. There are also 57 fewer students enrolled in the current year from the 2021-2022 school year.
Meanwhile, staffing levels have increased 95 workers in the past several years. The increase is attributed to an expansion of the Career and Technical Education program as well as efforts to keep class sizes lower coming out of the pandemic. In addition, staffing was increased to deal with the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students.
But that trend is quickly being reversed with the current need to downsize the budget. Eagle says required staffing cuts will have a negative effect on classroom learning.
"There will be impacts throughout the system next year as a result of the cuts," Eagle said. "Class sizes will increase, and they will get close to contractual limits."
The staffing level at Wenatchee schools will be reduced by 39 positions going into the next school year.
Other factors affecting the budget include a fadeout of regionalization dollars from the state being made by lawmakers over the next two years.
Regionalization dollars account for 3% of the district's budget. It'll be reduced by 1.5% in next school year, equaling a cut of $900,000.
Also, levy equalization money from the state is scheduled to drop by $1.4 million because of higher property values and the decrease in enrollment. The state will make a one-time payment to the district of $516,000 to help offset the loss.
Some well received programs are being threatened by the budget cuts, including Choice Enrollment.
The district is currently accepting new in and out-of-district choice applications for the 2023-24 school year. But applications will be closely evaluated, and approvals may be limited because of the budgetary constraints.