Vancouver Public Schools’ board of directors approved a supplemental education and operations levy to appear on the ballot in the Feb. 11, 2020, special election. The board voted unanimously on a resolution at its Nov. 12 meeting.
If passed by voters, the supplemental levy for education and operations would benefit all schools in the district. It would pay for locally funded teacher positions that maintain smaller class sizes. The levy also would maintain current levels of programs and services in VPS and help schools continue to improve student achievement and graduation rates.
The district is asking voters to authorize the following amounts:
- $10 million for 2021
- $10.415 million for 2022
- $10.875 million for 2023
The projected rates per $1,000 of assessed property valuation are:
- 43 cents in 2021
- 41 cents in 2022
- 40 cents in 2023
The owner of a property assessed at $350,000 would pay an additional $150 for the supplemental levy in 2021, the first year of collection.
The levy would supplement the local education and operations levy approved by Vancouver voters in February 2019. At that time, local voters approved the state’s then–maximum allowable rate: $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The local levy rate was capped as part of the Legislature’s effort to satisfy the Washington state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. However, the cap resulted in a $14.3 million budget shortfall for Vancouver Public Schools in the 2019–2020 school year. One-time money secured by Sen. Annette Cleveland, one-time use of the district’s reserve fund balance and reductions in central administrative services offset the deficit. Without supplemental levy approval or increased state funding, however, the district also anticipates a deficit of more than $10 million for the 2020–2021 school year.
After districts statewide also reported budget deficits, the Legislature raised the levy cap to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. If approved, the supplemental levy would bring the local education and operations levy rate to an estimated $1.95. The total local and state school tax rate, including all levies and bonds, would be an estimated $6.45 per $1,000 in 2021. This rate is equivalent to the total rate in 2017, the year prior to the implementation of the levy cap.
“Asking voters to approve a new tax measure is a request that Vancouver Public Schools takes very seriously,” said Mark Stoker, school board president. “The Vancouver community has demonstrated its support for children and public schools in many ways, including ongoing support for bonds and levies. We are grateful for this support and take seriously our obligation to handle taxpayer dollars responsibly.”
“We have a commitment, regardless of persistent gaps in state funding, to provide the programs and supports for students that the Vancouver community expects from its public schools,” said Superintendent Steve Webb. “If approved, this levy would sustain those services, as well as help pay for smaller class sizes and continue our work toward boosting our four-year graduation rate, which at 85% already exceeds the state average. It also would pay for positions such as counselors, school psychologists, nurses and security staff that provide mission-critical support for students in our schools.”
Locally collected school taxes (not including supplemental levy): $3.20
- Supplemental education and operations levy rate: 43 cents
- State-collected school taxes: $2.82
- Total projected school tax rate: $6.45
- 2017 pre-McCleary local levy cap tax rate: $6.45
- Net tax increase over 2017 pre-McCleary rate: $0
An advisory group of parents; community members; and stakeholders representing businesses, local government, education, nonprofit organizations and neighborhood associations recommended the supplemental levy request after reviewing the challenges presented by the state’s new funding system for K-12 education.