The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

School board learns new state funding comes with problems

 

November 30, 2017



Superintendent Bob Garrett gave an update on how decisions in the state legislature might affect the district at last Tuesday’s Wahkiakum School District Board of Director’s meeting.

“[The McCleary decision] was considered to be, by almost all districts, especially the property poor districts, the savior of inequities across the state,” Garrett said, “basically giving our kids and staff a level playing field with everyone else. It turns out because of the way they wrote the bill, it doesn’t even come close to equity.”

According to Garrett, the state is going to raise the state’s portion of the property tax. The money was supposed to be spread equitably to school districts all over the state, and take a burden off of poor districts.

With the new bill, the money is still going back to the rich school districts, based on a formula involving cost of living and the median price of homes.

The new bill could also affect future hiring, when districts are forced to consider budget before a better candidate. Wahkiakum teachers will not see a salary increase with the new bill, but teachers in districts with a high cost of living will be seeing as much as a 24 percent increase.

And, Garrett warned, if enrollment stays the same for the next three years, Wahkiakum School District could stand to lose $1.1 million dollars if they just grant the allowed increases for cost of living to teachers.

“Legislators and ESD (educational service district) people are realizing the true impact of this legislation,” Garrett said. “The legislation can’t bankrupt several districts across the state with this funding formula. The speculation is that the legislature, in the short session coming up, is going to be pressured to find ways to alleviate constraints that they’ve put on districts without costing the state very much money. Those districts that have levies coming up in February have to speculate on what they are going to have to do.”

This includes Wahkiakum.

The new bill also addresses levies, stating that districts can either levy $1.50 per $1,000 or $2,500 per FTE (full time equivalent, or full time student), whichever is the lesser.

The tax rate of the current maintenance and operations levy, which ends in 2018, is $2.38 per $1,000.

“I think our voters understand that we are not trying to rip them off,” Garrett said. “We’ve forever been considerably under the levy capacity that was allowed when we went for our levies, because we’ve tried to be sensitive to the tax burden on the local folks and only asked for what we really needed.”

After more discussion, the board voted unanimously to run a four year levy beginning in 2019 for the same amount as the last levy: $997,000 each year, with an estimated rate of $2.38 per $1,000.

“If we have to revise all that after the election, we will,” Garrett said.

In other news, 52 percent of the middle school students made the honor roll, according to Principal Nikki Reese.

The new school greenhouse is almost complete, and there is a lot of interest in a new garden club.

Finally, middle school teacher Tina Merz was named KLOG teacher of the month.

 

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