School board considers re-upping full levy, despite $25 million increase in state funding

An extra $25 million for the Snoqualmie Valley School District in 2019 won’t be enough to keep the district from asking voters to approve an operations levy in February, it seems. Based on the discussion at the Snoqualmie Valley School Board’s Oct. 26 workshop, the district will actually need almost $39 million in additional funding, just to maintain its current staffing and programming levels.

“Yes, we’re getting a lot more money from the state,” Ryan Stokes, assistant superintendent and Business Services Director, told the school board at the workshop. “It’s already committed and spent, in my mind.”

The additional $14 million in projected needs, Stokes explained, is based on gaps in what the district is already providing, compared with what the state formula will fund. Those gaps were the equivalent of 29 teachers, he said: Funding in 2019-20 will cover 13.2 counselors in the district, but the district currently has 16 on staff; funding will cover 1.7 health support staff but the district has 12.9 full-time equivalents; funding will cover 2 teachers for advanced learning programs such as STREAM and highly capable, but the district has 5; and the state formula does not fund any instructional coaches, but the district has 12.

Stokes updated board members on the impact of the State Legislature’s education funding fix, dedicating an additional $7 billion to education in its last session which ended July 20, but also allowing districts to run limited levies for “supplemental work” needs. These levies will be limited to the lesser of either a rate of $1.50 per student, or a total levy amount of $2,500 per student.

The Snoqualmie Valley School District’s current four-year operations levy expires in 2018, and the school board is considering its options for putting a new levy on the February ballot. The board is expected to take action on a 2018 levy at its Wednesday, Nov. 8 meeting.

Further complicating the education funding formula, Stokes pointed out, were the average salaries supported by the state formula. Starting in 2019, the state will fund districts for teacher salaries based on an average of $64,000 per teacher. However, Snoqualmie Valley’s current average teacher salary is $74,000.

Stokes said the district will be held only to a minimum salary, a maximum salary and a required five-year salary increase on teacher pay and it’s up to the district how to distribute the funds among teachers within those requirements. Teachers’ seniority will be accounted for in the state’s funding, as well.

Additionally, Stokes said, his projections of the state’s funding impact on Snoqualmie Valley School District included state assumptions that no district has increased enrollment from 2016-17 school year, and that all districts are compliant with the one teacher to 17 students class size ratio for K-3 classes. Following the 2019-20 school year, districts that aren’t compliant with that requirement could see reduced funding. Snoqualmie Valley is expecting to receive state funding for an additional 28 teachers for meeting this requirement, which it aims to do by 2019-20.

“If we don’t have lower class sizes, we don’t get the money,” Stokes said.

Further, the state formula does not fund food programs, summer school classes, or extra-curricular programs.

What the state is funding are career and technical education (CTE) programs, bilingual programs, learning assistance program (LAP) students, Highly Capable, special education and transportation, as well as some funding for Running Start and substitute teachers.

Looking ahead, Stokes also presented the board a list of additional programs the district might consider funding in the future, to stay competitive with neighboring districts. These included switching to an eight-hour day for teachers, similar to successful neighboring districts, from the current 7.5 hour days.

“Our per-pupil funding has always been substandard when compared to Issaquah, Bellevue,” and other neighboring district’s Stokes said.

He also noted that State Senator Mark Mullet met with district administration last week and reversed his previous stance that the district should cut its property tax levy in half. Now, Stokes said, Mullet would support a levy rate from the district of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value, and possibly more. Based on the district’s roughly $8 billion property tax base, Stokes calculated that a levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 would actually fall slightly short of the $13.7 million he projected the district will need to maintain programs.

The next school board meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at Snoqualmie City Hall.

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