In a May 28 letter to the VPS board of directors, the Management Task Force, a VPS advisory group, recommended that the district consider a supplemental levy ballot measure in 2019-20 as permitted by ESSB 5313. The group’s advice in light of the district’s budget deficit was to put the issue before voters and let them weigh in.

At the June 11 school board work session, Chief Fiscal Officer Brett Blechschmidt reviewed the change in the local levy cap and several supplemental levy amount scenarios, including the impact on total tax rate and additional revenue generated locally based on certain assumptions today.

A supplemental levy for education and operations would allow the district to sustain the recently restored positions identified as potential cuts beyond 2019-20. Recently, as part of the district budget development process, those positions were restored temporarily for 2019-20 by using one-time money, including reserve fund balance and state enhanced levy equalization assistance totaling $10.31 million.

“Those positions identified as potential cuts are not funded under the state’s prototypical school formula,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “Under the state’s new funding model, they are considered ‘enriched’ staffing that our community had chosen to support through the local education and operations levy before the levy swap and cap was legislated by ESSSB 6362. Repeatedly, I’ve referred to this legislative ‘fix’ as the McCleary mess.

“As we’ve heard loud and clear through our public engagement and budget input process, the Vancouver community has come to expect these supports and services for its children and public schools. Without sustainable funding to restore the ‘enriched’ staffing positions beyond 2019-20, it likely will be necessary to cut those positions to address the $10.31 million budget shortfall in 2020-21,” said Webb.

Blechschmidt presented three supplemental levy scenarios (see table below). One scenario is a rate increase of 31 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which signifies a reduction in total tax of 10 cents from the 2017 baseline tax rate. This would generate $7.25 million in 2021. The second scenario is a rate increase of 41 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which would generate $9.5 million. The third scenario is a rate increase of 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which would generate $11.75 million. The third scenario could provide funding that is lacking for school buses that need to be replaced.

Said board director Mark Stoker, “We’re also operating under the assumption that the state is unlikely to give any additional improvement next year.”

“There is speculation that there could be some adjustment more broadly in the area of adjustments for the prototypical staffing formula specific to counseling services and mental health services,” responded Webb. “We saw Superintendent Reykdal and the governor suggest that there may be some improvements in that part of the prototypical funding formula. I’m hearing recently that there is very little appetite for additional improvements in special education for this biennial budget. I think the legislature may be pressured to do something, but whether or not that materializes, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Several board members expressed a strong desire to conduct a statistically representative survey of community members to see if they would support a supplemental levy.

The board of directors will further consider and evaluate a supplemental levy on the following timeline to begin August 2019.

• August – Further review of supplemental levy and potential amounts at August retreat

• September – Conduct statistically representative survey of community members

• October – Survey findings reported to board of directors

• November – If supported by community survey data results and directed by the board of directors, consider a supplemental levy measure resolution in November for the February 2020 special election.

Read Dr. Webb’s remarks.

Read a related article in Clark County Today.

Potential 2021 Supplemental Levy Scenarios

ActualActualActualEstimatedScenario 1Scenario 2Scenario 3
Total currently authorized tax rate
(includes E&O and tech levies, construction bonds and state property tax)
Potential supplemental levy raten/an/an/an/a$0.31$0.41$0.51
Total school tax rate w/ supplemental E & O options$6.45$7.29$5.71$6.18$6.35$6.45$6.55
Change vs. 2017 "pre-McCleary" baselinen/a$0.84($0.74)($0.27)($0.10)$ -$0.10
Supplemental levy amount to be collectedn/an/an/an/a$7,250,000 $9,500,000 $11,750,000