Alone among the larger districts in Spokane County, the Mead School District decided this year to mitigate its budget problems by offering a two-year supplemental levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.
If the $14.6 million measure passes, the district will reinstate some paraeducators who were 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 recently.
The levy also contains funds earmarked for what the district calls “learning and social-emotional needs of nontraditional students” following the closure of the Riverpoint Academy and the M.E.A.D. Alternative High School.
But while the levy has no organized opposition, two board candidates feel those programs never should have been shuttered in the first place and are upset that there’s no indication they’ll be reopened.
“The priority and promise of Riverpoint and M.E.A.D. Alternative reopening and serving the nontraditional students and at-risk students should be the first use of any additional levy funds,” said John Hatcher, who is challenging eight-term incumbent John Olson.
Olson countered that if the levy is successful, the district will convene a volunteer task force for the portion of funds that will go toward nontraditional students.
Fellow incumbent Dorcas Wylder agreed, saying the task force will make it a priority “to ensure all learners are able to find a home in Mead and that there will be multiple pathways for our nontraditional learners.”
If approved by a simple majority of district voters, the levy would cost $1 per $1,000 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 $1,000.
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. The levy would restore some paraeducator positions and maintain nursing staff at current levels.
That’s a major expense, said Wylder, who noted the state funding model pays only $96,000, roughly that of one experienced nurse. The district currently spends 10 times that amount.
“We believe all our students, especially those who are medically fragile, deserve adequate care for their safety and wellness,” Wylder said.
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.
Based on those recommendations, the supplemental levy would fund the hiring of a safety director, a threat assessment coordinator and up to five school security officers.
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