Schools forecast smaller enrollment, budget for fall

 

TAYLOR-RAE CAYOU

Fifteen years ago, 650 students attended grades K-12 at La Conner Schools.

But this fall only 530 are projected, an enrollment drop that will have a direct impact on the school district’s 2022-23 budget.

School officials are forecasting a $13 million budget next year, down from $14.5 million in 2021-22, in response to anticipated reduced state funding and federal impact aid support linked to student enrollment.

The district has already eliminated two in-person teaching positions.

The board has tasked business manager Brian Gianello during the panel’s hybrid meeting June 26 to develop a plan assuring an end-of-year fund balance of $1.3 million, about $100,000 more than he had initially presented.

“We have a policy that calls for a fund balance that is 10% of the budget,” noted board president Susie Deyo.

The drop in student enrollment is a statewide trend, Gianello has said previously and is attributed to residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic factors that have forced families to relocate based on cost-of-living.

Gianello said the 2022-23 district budget will continue to take shape in the weeks ahead.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.

As part of the public comment segment of the budget discussions, resident Dan O’Donnell implored the board to seek participation from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community with district capital budget debt service.

“I believe it’s time to recognize that the tribe has 34% of the school population,” O’Donnell said. “34% of the debt service should be picked up by the tribe.”

O’Donnell was thanked for his input, but board members did not respond specifically to his request.

La Conner High junior Taylor-Rae Cayou was sworn in as the new school board student representative, succeeding Delaney Cobbs, who has graduated and will attend Washington State University. Cayou will join senior Eleanor Drews as high school reps on the board in 2022-23.

Barb Endrody and Maureen Harlan of La Conner Soroptimists presented the district a handsome plaque and Ruby Award valued at $1,000 honoring the late Lea McMillan Diacos, a 1938 La Conner High alum who donated generously to her alma mater and for whom a major scholarship is named.

The board accepted the donation by Kevin Hartman of Westar Solutions 600 Safety Tip Line magnets, 600 new La Conner Braves mascot stickers and design time to rebuild the new district mascot. The Hartman donation is valued at $1,810.

Superintendent Will Nelson was attending a conference in Spokane and took part in the board meeting via Zoom.

 

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