Yelm school district shares reduced educational plan amid budget shortfall

YCS projects a $1.6 million deficit


Yelm Community Schools projects it will finish the 2023-24 school year with a fund balance of $3.3 million, $1.6 million short of its projected balance of $4.9 million from its adopted balance in August.

The approved budget already included a deficit of $1.2 million less than the district’s minimum fund balance policy. With its new projection falling $1.6 million shy of its August projection, YCS faces a total deficit of $2.8 million under its minimum fund balance policy.

On top of this, the district is tasked with preparing for reductions should the educational programs and operations levy included on the April 23 special election ballot fail. Regardless of if the levy passes or fails, the district will have to make cuts due to its budget deficit. The current EP&O levy expires at the end of the year, and the new levy amount is for less than the expiring one.

During her presentation to the Yelm school board on Thursday, March 28, YCS Chief of Finance & Operations Jennifer Carrougher said the district has frozen hiring, aside from critical positions. She added that the district is evaluating all travel and ensuring that it is maximizing all of its revenue, as well as claiming all of its available grant funds.

“We’re evaluating all travel more closely. We’re looking at the funding source, so if it’s paid for by a grant, we’re going to lose that funding,” Carrougher said during the meeting. “We’re evaluating all travel if it’s not paid out of a grant. We’re looking to see what the benefit is to the district and if it’s really critical to go to that [event].”

The district has also made cuts to winter high school assistant coaching positions, but if the levy passes, the staff would be retained.

Carrougher explained that the budget deficit is caused by a number of factors, including the rise of inflation, increased salaries and benefit costs, increased materials and supplies costs, higher cost for special education and more. She, along with Superintendent Chris Woods, presented their reduced education plan that Woods described as “precautionary.” He said that should the EP&O levy fail a second time, the district would make the necessary reductions.

Those reductions include $1,065,000 from the district office, $5.35 million district wide, $5.36 million from elementary schools, and $4.525 million from secondary schools. In total, the plan would cut an estimated $16.3 million from the district budget if the district does not receive the levy funds. The school board approved a measure to put the levy proposition back on the ballot with a collection rate of $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, down from the originally proposed $2.50 per $1,000.

The potential district-wide cuts described in the plan include scaling departments to only essential operations, no technology or new curriculum purchases as well as a reduction of health and safety support, student intervention support, staff training, extracurricular activities and administration. Class sizes would also increase across the district, while building and classroom supplies would be reduced.

Despite the difficult situation placed on the district, Woods said he remains optimistic that the levy will pass on the second attempt.

“We are very hopeful and optimistic that we will pass the levy. If that’s the case, we will come back with a different and revised reduced education plan,” he said. “We will have to make some cuts even if the levy passes at the reduced rate and also to balance the budget.”

If the levy passes, the maximum amount that the district could collect in 2025 would be $13,950,000. The levy makes up approximately 13% of the district’s budget and covers costs that the state does not, including special education support, mental health services, activities, clubs and athletics.