Longview Schools Proposed Budget Faces Pandemic-Related Financial Losses and Enrollment Drops | Education

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The Longview School District is proposing a budget of $109 million and is ready to hear feedback from community members at Monday’s public hearing.

The school board is due to finalize the budget by August 22 at the regular school board meeting.

Despite higher expenses and low enrollment, the district expects to break even using revenue from local levies, general state funds, and federal COVID-19 relief funds received through ESSER, or the Emergency Relief Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools.

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“We are able to present a balanced budget by using these ESSER dollars to stabilize the shortfall that would occur due to the enrollment declines that we have seen,” said Patti Bowen, executive director of business services, during the meeting. a budget presentation last month.

In 2021-22, the state provided stabilization funding to cover the loss of full-time students enrolled in the district. Bowen said the Longview School District was ineligible for this because the district got federal dollars through ESSER.

“Registration is our biggest revenue driver,” Bowen said. “The average FTE (full-time enrollment) is what we’re funded on for the full year.”

Most of the district’s per-student funding comes from the state, according to the District Bulletin from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington. According to district data, Longview schools are reporting some of the lowest enrollment rates since 2010-11.

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The district lost about 350 of its approximately 6,400 students between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 school years, according to school district data. Since 2010, the only other non-pandemic years in which enrollments dropped below 6,300 were in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

According to district data, Longview schools expect about 70 students to return at the start of the upcoming school year. The return will not match enrollment in 2019, which was 6,488 students before the pandemic.

It’s difficult for the district to identify why students are leaving, where they went instead, and whether enrollment will return to previous levels. Bowen said students could have relocated or homeschooled, and future enrollment projections could change.

What the district spends its money on in the next school year will remain the same, but how much has changed. The largest spending increases are expected to go to basic and special education programs.

Bowen said inflation and supply chain delays have led to increased spending on nutrition and transportation in the district, with the district expected to spend an estimated $640,000 more on these support services in 2022-23. than in 2021-22.

The district also expects to lose about $3.1 million in revenue from district grants and non-basic education programs in 2022-23, according to school board documents.

Still, Bowen said that with the one-time ESSER boost that can be spent before September 2024, they don’t expect to lose any money.


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However, the next four years could pose a financial challenge if the district does not adjust expenses and enrollment does not return. The district expects its total closing fund balance to grow from $9.65 million at the end of the 2023 school year to $3.28 million by the end of the 2025 school year.

“It’s no surprise, we knew we were going to have a hard time,” said board member Jennifer Leach. “I think the ESSER funds gave us a bit of a buffer for a while, so I think we just have to keep looking year after year.”

Superintendent Dan Zorn said they will continue to work to balance the budget, noting that the four-year forecast shows a general but not concrete trend that assumes the district will continue operations exactly as it always has.







Longview Superintendent Dan Zorn

Zorn


Longview School District, contributed


“We fully recognize that there is work to be done as we move forward on this file,” Zorn said during the board meeting. “There are a lot of things that can impact income and expenses by then.”

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