Wenatchee Schools Outlines Budget Cuts; Staff Levels Likely To Drop
Wenatchee Schools is working on an aggressive timeline to identify budget cuts that need to be made as the district deals with falling enrollment.
Interim Superintendent Bill Eagle outlined a plan at this week's school board meeting to come up with different ways to deal with funding issues.
He says the goal is to have options available for the school board to consider by late February.
“If we can meet that timeline, then at the last board meeting in late February, we hope that the board will be able to select a scenario for us moving forward,” Eagle said. “Again, this is an aggressive timeline in terms of the budgeting process.”
Five categories make up the district's budget - general fund, capital projects, debt service, transportation and extracurricular activities for middle and high school students.
About 92 percent of the overall budget sits in the general fund, which is where most of the attention will be focused moving forward, according to Eagle.
He said the general fund will be affected my enrollment, which has been waning in recent years, and is projected to drop even further.
"Our enrollment drives the revenues in the general fund, and we have experienced some decreases in enrollment that are impacting the revenues in our general fund," said Eagle.
About 83 percent of the general fund goes to pay for salaries and benefits for school staff, which includes more than 1,000 members - teachers, para educators, principals, and operational staff such as janitors.
Teachers and teaching support represent almost 78 percent of the staffing costs within general fund.
Eagle said any budget cuts would likely affect staffing levels.
"I focus on the staffing portion of our budget because the majority of our budget is used for staffing costs," Eagle said. "And we will have to do some work to align our staffing levels with what can be supported through general fund dollars moving forward."
Eagle said efforts are being made to communicate with school employees just how the budget works and some of the challenges the district faces with decreasing enrollment.
A budget forecast for the district projects a decline of 700 students and 60 certified employees over the next four years.
Enrollment is expected to shrink from 6,989 in the last school year to 6,289 in 2025-26. Revenues are expected to fall from almost $123 million in the upcoming school year to about$119 million in 2025-26.
The school district's budget page indicates retirements and resignation will not likely offset the need for staffing cuts.
"While attrition will help the district’s budget, it will likely not completely address all the challenges," the site says under Budget Frequently Asked Questions.
Tuesday night, the board established a two-member budget committee consisting of members Martin Barron and Laura Jaecks.