Superintendent Steve Webb and Chief Fiscal Officer Brett Blechschmidt presented the 2015-16 operating budget at the Aug. 11 public hearing and school board meeting.

“Given the board’s direction at our July 2 work session, we finalized the 2015-16 budget,” said Webb. “Setting aside the proposed state cost-of-living adjustment, this budget invests approximately $10 million in discretionary expense improvements. Of this amount, approximately 95 percent, or $9.5 million, are classroom and school-based investments. This is an excellence and equity budget, focused explicitly on pushing as much direct support as possible to students and schools to improve student achievement.”

Following the public hearing, the board resumed its regular meeting to consider Resolution No. 756, the operating budget for the 2015-16 school year.

Board Director Kathy Gillespie noted that this was the second year that the state passed a budget that provided more money to public education. She added she wanted additional budget allocations redirected to the classroom.

“I want to go back to the budget and look at dollars allocated far from the classroom and redirect them to direct services to students,” said Gillespie.

Dr. Webb clarified that over the past two budget cycles, 95 percent of new revenue has been invested in classroom and school-based services. He added that VPS central administrative costs, as a percent of general fund expenses, have historically been at or below similar-size districts.

Gillespie and Board Vice President Edri Geiger specifically want more counselors, behavior specialists and drug and alcohol prevention specialists added to the budget.

“I want a full-time counselor in every elementary school,” said Geiger. “… It’s happening all over the country. This is where the movement is. … Our students deserve this, and our staff deserve it, too, to have that in their buildings to assist those kids.”

Superintendent Webb and Blechschmidt pointed out that compared to the 2014-15 budget, the district will invest nearly $1 million in 12 additional full-time counselors, and $133,000 for Family-Community Resource Center coordinators and other intervention specialists, all of which provide direct support to students.

Board President Mark Stoker said, “I support the budget that’s recommended. The budget was developed by Dr. Webb and his leadership team… I think it strikes the right balance between direct support for students and classrooms. It’s student-focused and building centered. It takes an entire system to make this work and I value the work of all our employees no matter what their jobs are. … The budget supports all the things we do.”

Board Director Dale Rice said he had confidence in the district leadership team to make decisions about what they need with limited resources.

A split vote by the board failed to approve the budget. Stoker and Rice voted to approve the budget; Gillespie voted no and Geiger abstained. The state deadline for approval of the budget is Aug. 31.

The Board of Directors will come back to the table to reconsider the budget in a work session and Board meeting on Aug. 19.

“I am absolutely confident that the board will fulfill its statutory responsibility and adopt a budget for Vancouver Public Schools by August 31 as required by Washington state law,” said Superintendent Steve Webb.