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Evergreen Public Schools unanimously adopts budget

Evergreen Public Schools adopted a $634,770,323 budget for the 2019-2020 school year on Tuesday, bringing to a close months of discussion over how to balance the district budget.

The district’s board unanimously adopted a budget that includes a $385,274,032 general fund, which includes staff salary and benefits, and $210,562,237 in capital construction projects, the vast majority of which is funded by voter-approved school bonds.

The district’s general fund expenses grew by about $16.5 million over last year, though the overall budget is about $21.8 million less than last year’s due to declines in the district’s projected capital expenses for the upcoming school year.

The budget reflects about $11 million in budget cuts to bring expenses in line with district revenue. Evergreen, like other districts in Clark County and across the state, faced a budget deficit this year in light of increasing labor costs, declining enrollment and changes to the state school funding formula.

“It was a challenging year, budget-wise, not just for Evergreen, but for everyone that works in a school district in the state of Washington,” Superintendent Mike Merlino said.

None of Tuesday’s budget announcements came as a surprise. Some of the cuts, which have been announced in the last six months, include:

• The elimination of 32 central office positions for a savings of $4,265,000.

• The reduction of spending on instructional technology for a savings of $1 million.

• Reductions to the district print shop for a savings of about $200,000, and reducing or restructuring library media assistant staff for a savings of about $405,000.

• The use of about $3 million from the district’s ending fund balance, or savings account.

Merlino noted in particular that the preservation of classroom teaching positions contrasted with the multimillion elimination of central office staff. About 74 percent of the district general fund budget goes to paying for teachers and classroom support staff, compared with 5 percent that pays for salaries and work in the district office.

“We were really focused on keeping money in the buildings and not at the district office,” Merlino said.

School board members praised the district for its transparent handling of the budget process, noting a series of public forums that attracted about 600 people to them over the course of the year.

“When we knew we were going to have to make cuts, everybody came together and worked really hard,” board president Julie Bocanegra said.

Merlino noted that, while the development of the budget was often challenging, the end result is a document that allows the district to educate and support students.

“Our system has a lot of great people in it and we need to work together,” he said. “We need to listen to our people, and we ultimately need to make sure we’re supporting our core mission.”


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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