While most budget watchers pay close attention to the quarterly state revenue forecasts, fewer watch caseload forecasts closely. The Washington Research Council is among those that do. The WRC reports that yesterday, the caseload forecast had significant budget ramifications.
Overall, caseloads are now estimated to be lower than forecasted in February 2021, which was the caseload forecast on which the 2021–23 operating budget was based. According to the Office of Financial Management (OFM), the forecast and per capita impacts are estimated to reduce general fund–state (GFS) spending by $645.8 million in 2021–23.
The largest component of that savings estimate is K–12 education. The current forecast estimates that common school enrollment for school year (SY) 2021–22 is 52,284 (4.7%) lower than expected in Feb. 2021. Enrollment for SY 2022–23 is now estimated to be 48,384 (4.3%) lower than expected in February.
Those percentage changes are significant. There’s more at the WRC post.
The $645.8 million in total estimated savings from the forecast frees up state funds that can now be used for other purposes. This is still more good news for budget writers.
As the WRC points out, this follows a series of reports showing the state’s improved fiscal position.