By Briana Alzola

The Anacortes School Board approved a roughly $40.5 million budget for this school year, but Finance and Operations Director Dave Cram said numbers could be affected by fluctuating enrollment.

The board also approved a resolution that allows district administrators to lay off and furlough staff members as necessary. Those cuts will likely be in the transportation and food services departments, Superintendent Justin Irish said.

Roughly 86% of the district’s budget goes to personnel costs.

With almost all students starting the year in a remote setting, there is less work needed for transportation and food, he said. The district gets funding from the state to help pay those services and will use some of it to provide lunches to students who need it. But until school moves to in-person instruction, much of the state money will need to be repaid that isn’t utilized.

“It’s money we can’t spend,” Irish said. Therefore, some jobs will be lost.

One estimate shows the district losing roughly 300 students this year or more than 10% of students. That reduction 

would mean about $2 million less in funding from the state, Cram said. The district would need to make up that $2 million somehow, and because so much of the district’s budget goes to salaries and benefits, that’s where many of the reductions would likely come into play, Cram said.

“These are very tough decisions,” Irish said. “We don’t take this lightly. These are people, members of our incredible team, part of our family. This is one of the most difficult decisions a new superintendent can make.”

Irish, who took the helm this summer as superintendent, said decisions won’t be made until the district has a final count of how many students are registered to attend. All funding depends on the number of students enrolled.

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the state provides spends roughly $11,500 per student to fund basic education.

“We won’t be addressing these changes until we know for sure what our needs are,” he said.

The state funds the school district for September to December based on estimates, Cram said. Lower enrollment will mean the state takes money back, which could affect January.

Registrars returned this week, registering new students and processing students leaving the district, Cram said.

“We are trying to get a better handle on where enrollment is,” he said.

The district will also likely receive lower amounts in grants and other donation funding this year based on the financial hits caused by the pandemic, he said.

“We will be looking at this monthly,” he said.

Board policy states that the board must approve its budget for the year by Aug. 31. but part of the budgeting process is to predict the financial future over the next four years.

“It’s hard to look forward four years when I don’t know what will happen between now and Sept. 14,” Cram said at a budget hearing Aug. 13.

The district has increased its technological resources to deal with remote learning, largely funded by the tech levy passed by voters. But those funds are also affected by enrollment, Cram said.

The tech levy funding is based on the previous year’s numbers, so funding this year may be higher than next year.

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