Two additional options for a potential supplemental levy are under consideration by the school board. The options and the results of a recent community survey were shared with the board at the Oct. 22 work session.

Survey results provide guidance

In September, the district contracted with CFM Strategic Communications in Portland to survey community residents about their support of Option 1: a three-year supplemental levy of $15 million. Results of the random-sample telephone survey of 300 district residents showed 52 percent of respondents would support that potential request. Among parents of current students, the support was higher at 61 percent. The survey’s margin of error is 5.8 percent. Levy measures require a simple majority—50 percent plus one—to pass.

Survey participants rated the following as most important to them in a levy proposal:

  • Sustaining levy-funded teacher positions would maintain smaller class-size averages;
  • All schools would benefit from the levy funding; and,
  • The levy would help schools continue to improve graduation rates and student achievement.

Supplemental levy 

Consideration of a supplemental levy is new territory for the board of directors. Vancouver Public Schools’ voters approved an education and operations levy measure and a technology levy last February. However, following the implementation of the McCleary decision, the district had a 2019-20 budget shortfall of $10.3 million, due partially to a cap on the local levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This year, that deficit was offset by one-time money secured by Senator Annette Cleveland and one-time use of the district’s reserve fund balance. After more than 250 districts statewide reported multimillion-dollar budget deficits, the legislature raised the levy cap to provide a way for local communities to compensate for the deficits.

At the Oct. 22 work session, Brett Blechschmidt, associate superintendent and chief operating officer, presented the following additional options for a supplemental levy. The rates and corresponding collection amounts below would apply to 2021, the first year of the three-year supplemental levy request.

Option 2 – 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value = total collection of $11.25 million

Option 3 – 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value = total collection of $10 million

“I would invite all of us to think about what our responsibility is to our community when our community members are going to be asked to tax themselves at a greater rate than they are already paying,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “We must be responsible stewards of the public’s money and not ask for more than is necessary to achieve and deliver the services and programs that our public has become accustomed to.”

Option 2
Projected tax implication
Option 3
Projected tax implication
Projected locally collected school taxes:$3.20$3.20
Projected state-collected school taxes:$2.82$2.82
Total currently authorized school taxes:$6.02$6.02
Recommended supplemental education and operations levy rate:$0.48$0.43
Total projected school tax rate:$6.50$6.45
2017 pre-McCleary tax rate:$6.45$6.45
Proposed net tax increase over pre-McCleary rate:$0.05$0

Due to greater-than-expected enrollment in 2019-20 and cost savings from last year’s austerity measures, Option 1 with the higher levy amount of $15 million has been taken out of consideration.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have the taxpayers solve the total problem left by McCleary, which is what Option 1 represented,” said Board President Mark Stoker. “Option 2 is a softer blow, but it’s still above the baseline of 2017 (before McCleary). I think the survey results show a lot of confusion about what McCleary did or didn’t do. What I like about Option 3 is that we meet our taxpayers part of the way by making cuts that we can live with. It gets us to a zero baseline. Despite whatever happens, we’ll be in the same place we were before this mess got started.”

The school board is scheduled to consider a final recommendation for the proposed supplemental levy measure at its Nov. 12 meeting.