Vancouver Public Schools weighing February run at levy
Vancouver Public Schools appears unlikely this year to take advantage of changes to state law that would allow it to run an additional property tax levy, despite concerns over a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.At a recent work session, the Vancouver Public Schools Board of Directors tentatively laid out a plan to ask voters next February to approve a supplemental levy of no more than 51 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, collecting as much as $11.75 million annually. The district plans to conduct a community survey prior to running the levy.The Legislature this past session raised the cap on local school levies from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value, or at a level that would raise $2,500 per pupil, whichever leads to lower levy rates. It’s continued fallout from the McCleary decision, the landmark school funding lawsuit that determined the state was failing to fund basic education. Although the state Supreme Court ruled last year that the Legislature succeeded in meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund public schools, districts across the state are grappling this year with deficits in the millions of dollars.Vancouver Public Schools has scaled back its original $16.8 million in projected spending cuts to $8 million, due in large part to about $6.5 million in additional, one-time state money. The district made staff cuts to compensate for declining enrollment. The district’s general fund budget is about $324 million.The district is also spending $3.75 million from its reserve fund. Even so, the district is cutting more than $4 million in expenses. That includes 5 percent cuts in its central office for $1.2 million in savings, a 15 percent reduction in central office administrative positions for an $800,000 savings, and cutting travel for professional development in half, for a $400,000 savings. Teaching and counseling positions above adjusting for declining enrollment, meanwhile, were taken off the table for cuts this year.