Ellensburg School District Offices

Ellensburg School District offices as seen on Tuesday in Ellensburg. 

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If there is something everyone can agree on, it’s the year 2020 has been unpredictable. Creating a school budget with millions of dollars is equally unpredictable.

Ellensburg School District Executive Director of Business Services, Brian Aiken, said the district, and likely every district in the nation, has no idea what school will look like come September.

“We are just doing the best we can to try and leave flexibility in the plan, should plans change,” Aiken said. “I mean, things can change day by day. The governor can come out and say ‘here’s the new change for the school year…’ We have been spending all summer trying to get ready for whatever scenario meets us and it all could change right up to the start of school.”

The current budget predicts school spending will increase by over $1,779,856 while revenue will increase by $465,950. The total district revenue will be at $47,400,000 will total spending will be $49,700,002. This means the district will be spending $2.3 million more than it has in revenue.

One of the largest sources of funding for the district is student enrollment. Aiken said each student brings in about $14,472 in local, state and federal funding. The models for next year predict the district will see an increase of about 60 students. The model comes to this conclusion by looking at how the district has grown over recent years. However, because of the coronavirus, the district is not confident in the accuracy of the model.

“In situations like this you can’t rely on your traditional enrollment predictions, so we tried to take a really conservative enrollment prediction just in case,” Aiken said.

Because of this, the current budget doesn’t account for the 60 students predicted in the models. This means the budget does not account for an estimated $868,320 in revenue.

The district is looking for other ways to save money in ways that will not affect students or affect them as little as possible. One common way is the district is not hiring replacement staff if someone retires.

That evident with the Morgan Middle School music teacher who retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year. The district plans to fill this position by having using other teachers to fill in when and where they are needed.

“We all got together, took a hard look at that position and thought of any way we could deliver services in any other way? Could we use the other staff members that maybe have a free period or an available period or could we fill it with a half-time person instead of a full-time person,” Aiken said. “We ask all of those questions. We look at class sizes and took a hard look that way.”

Aiken said the district has used this method with a handful of other teachers, some being in general education classrooms. He is not sure on the exact number of staff this has been implemented with but is confident it is below 10.

Aiken said this could all change because of the coronavirus. For example, the district can’t be sure music will even be taught the same way with social distancing and remote education.

“These are very unusual times for sure, for all of us,” Aiken said.

The district budget plan was approved by the school board at their meeting Wednesday, July 22. The full budget can be found at https://bit.ly/2X4mcNH.

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