The West Valley School District hopes to restore some of the programs and staff that it cut over the summer if voters approve a supplemental levy in November that would generate about $5.3 million over two years.
After the school district gave teachers 9% raises and the Legislature cut its local property tax levies by more than $2.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value in favor of boosting state property taxes, West Valley projected a $2.5 million budget shortfall for the year,
The supplemental levy “will help us get back up to where our budget was before our levy was cut,” said deputy superintendent Doug Matson.
The two-year levy would cost property owners an additional $1 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2020 and 2021, bringing the total educational programs and operations levy to $2.50.
That means the owners of a $250,000 home would pay about $250 in new property taxes and around $625 total in 2020 and 2021.
“After the overwhelming passage of our 2018 levy, we hoped we wouldn’t have to go back to (voters) so soon,” said school board president Dan Hansen.
But without the additional levy, school officials say the general fund won’t be able to pay for current programs. The school board voted unanimously in June to put it on the ballot.
“Rather than watch our fund balance drop to zeroes and have to make more cuts, we felt this was the better option,” Hansen said.
The district received a little more than $1 million in one-time state funding because the district was slated to receive less through the state’s new school funding model than its previous levies.
And Matson said when the state started giving schools more money, it mandated that portions of those funds be spent on certain categories.
“We couldn’t use that money like we used to, so we had to reduce programs,” Matson.
The custodial staff, which had 10 positions cut, three of them through layoffs, was hit the hardest with budget reductions, Matson said. Ten teachers were not replaced after they received average raises of 9%, and some athletic teams had to skip a day of practice each week, in addition to other cuts. Teacher raises in West Valley were lower than they were in many other districts in 2018. Spokane Public Schools, for instance, approved an average 13% increase in teacher pay last year.
Matson said some of those positions and programs could come back if the levy passes. It also would support current funding for athletics, early learning, classroom materials and other programs.
Hansen said whatever is restored will be contingent upon how much the state’s new mandate to provide health insurance and other benefits to part-time school employees costs.
Matson and Hansen said they were not aware of any organized opposition to the levy from district residents.
“The West Valley community has an amazing record of supporting school levies and bonds,” Hansen said.
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