Three months after making some difficult budget cuts, the Mead School District hopes to restore what was lost with a two-year supplemental levy totaling $14.6 million.
According to the district, the money raised would reinstate some paraeducators let go in recent cuts, maintain nursing staff at current levels, increase safety and security personnel and expand learning opportunities for nontraditional students.
“We felt like when you make those kinds of cuts, that we need to give the community the opportunity to say yes,” board president Carmen Green said Tuesday.
If approved by a simple majority of district voters on Nov. 5, the levy would cost $1 per thousand of assessed value, while raising $7.1 million in 2020 and $7.5 million in 2021. That would be in addition to the state levy lid of $1.50 per thousand.
Like most districts in the state, Mead faced heavy budget cuts in the wake of changes to the state model for funding basic education following the landmark McCleary decision.
On May 7, the board approved $11 million in cuts, which included closure of project-based Riverpoint Academy and M.E.A.D. Alternative High School.
“People have been upset about the closing of those programs, I understand that, but I think that people by and large understand,” Green said. “We had to look at how we could serve those students in a less-expensive way.”
According to the district, the levy would form a task force “to make recommendations on how the district can best allocate a portion of supplemental levy funds to meet the learning and social-emotional needs of nontraditional students.”
At the same time, the district felt compelled to boost funding for safety and security following the findings of a task force that had been meeting since the beginning of 2018.
“It was unfortunate timing, but we needed a really solid play for that, and this was a way to begin the process,” Green said.
The supplemental levy would fund hiring of a safety director, threat assessment coordinator and up to five school security officers.
In its proposal, the district noted that it spends roughly 10 times as much on nurses than what the state provides. “This additional nursing staff allows our medically fragile students to remain at their home schools,” the district said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The decision to restore some paraeducators came after discussions with parent-teacher organizations and other groups and employees.
“One of the things they said was they felt like the paraeducators were the first line of defense – extra eyes to watch what’s going on and keeping kids safe,” Green said. “Parents said they thought that’s the first thing you have to bring back.”
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