February 13 Board Meeting Recap

The board meetings are recorded and available at some point after the meeting on the District website.  I will do my best to summarize the meeting, but for the full report you can view the recording when it becomes available. 

All Board members were present.  The meeting was held at the District Office.  

PGS 3rd grade music students performed under the direction of Marie Williams, who also received special recognition, Chinook Region Music Educator of the Year.  

High School Student Representatives reported on the before and after school learning supports at their schools.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Katie Gates on disrespect by students.

Discussed the concern from teachers about the student behavior and disrespect teachers are enduring. Concern that teachers are leaving because of the disrespect from students. The concern is happening at all levels, they don’t feel safe and they will see it every day.

Melissa responded with a comment about Steilacoom SD focusing on Social and Emotional learning, and her disappointment that more parents aren’t at the Candace Lund-Bollinger classes put on by the District. (A list of classes is on the TSD website here).

Superintendent Dotson said he would follow up with Katie.

CONSENT AGENDA

No comments or questions, consent agenda was approved.

ACTION ITEMS

Resolution 06-19-20-Temporarily Altering the Establish Amount of the Unreserved Fund Balance of the General Fund. There was a change in the resolution paragraph, they removed the sentence that said the fund balance would never go below the minimum fund balance. They established a year end fund balance minimum of 4%, this allows them to go down to no lower than 3% if needed. Further discussion will be in the Superintendent report.

Rita expressed concern about going below the 4%. “I find this really upsetting. You know I know it’s an absolute necessity at this point that we have to do this, but I just want to stress how important this fund balance is to the stability of the District and how hard we need to work to bring it back up. Because that is what keeps us going and gives us an emergency fund for things that happen. We all know that they happen, and so I really encourage us to work on that to reinstate this to where it should be.”

Melissa asked how it effects the district bond rating, Jim explained that it is part of the rating, and he met with the Bond council this last week and they will be providing information about that question. (The bond rating affects the ability of our district to sell Bonds). Superintendent Dotson stated that the District is not trying to sell bonds right now, but if it isn’t recovered in the future that might affect the rating.

Rita asked how long this would effect our bond rating in the future.

Melissa asked if they would be able to make payroll every month. Jim stated they will make payroll every month.

Scott asked Superintendent Dotson to explain what the Fund Balance is used for. Superintendent Dotson explained how the fund balance goes up and down throughout the year based on when we get levy payments and when expenses occur. Their monthly payments are not equal. They need to keep the fund balance up to cover the lower payment months. He explained that what most districts like to have in the fund balance is one months expenses. One month’s expenses for TSD would be $7.8MM, so in the months where they get down to $2MM they are in an uncomfortable place. He said they will work to get the fund balance in a better place, in case of unforeseen expenses. The fund balance in good economic times can help cover when you get to lean times so you don’t have to cut programs. They want to get the fund balance back to a place where if they were the economy turns they need to be in a place where they have something solid to take care of the needs.

Resolution 06-19-20-passed.

2nd Reading-Revisions Policy 6220-Bid Requirements passed.

2nd Reading, Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct Sean reminded them of the major changes, they took out the specific meeting times to allow some flexibility. They added a section on study sessions.

Melissa added it allows them to meet in the evening especially for study sessions. The said they would still visit the schools, but not necessarily as a meeting.

Rita asked about how they were going to get site reports from the schools. SI Dotson explained that since they were shifting to evening work sessions, they would have site reports prior to the meeting. They will also have times in the morning to visit the sites.

Revisions policy 1400-Meeting Conduct passed

2nd Reading, Revisions Policy 3131Attendance Area (Intra-District) Transfers A couple changes from the 1st reading, language about non resident students was removed since this is an intra-district policy and that language does not apply. A sentence was added to state that they District will provide applicants with written notification of approval or denial of the application in a timely manner. Rita asked if another boundary revision were to occur, would these polices work or would they need to be changed again. Superintendent Dotson explained that they should work.

The revision dates were also discussed. The date was unclear if that was the only times it had been revised or if that was only the latest time it was revised. Rita also stated there was a time they went through all the policies to update them since they hadn’t been updated in a while.

Policy 3131 passed.

Policy 3141 – Non-resident students. There are no changes with this policy. SI Dotson discussed the Thought Exchange, but did not feel there was any feedback that really impacted the policy. The feedback received was more related to the procedure.

Melissa thanked SI Dotson for facilitating the updating of these policies.

Policy 3141 passed.

The Board took a short break for 10 minutes.

OTHER BUSINESS

20/21 Budget Development and timeline.

Jim explained that they have been meeting with each building and looking at certificated staff and other staff needs at each of the buildings.

March 12 is the date for the legislative session to end, they are hoping for more equity from the legislature.

March 20th is the departments and building budget allocations will be sent out by Jim. The principals can decide where to put that funding in their buildings.

April 1st is the last day to turn in additional funding requests.

April 15th is the deadline to let the Bargaining Unions know if they will be planning a Reduction in Force. The deadline to send to the affected employees for Reduction in Force is May 15.

Draft Budget available to the public July 10, Final budget adopted August 27.

Melissa asked about the budget work session, they talked about doing that on July 23rd.

Melissa also asked for the budget to be divided by staff and building and staffing levels at each school.

Rita asked what they plan to do with the boundary changes and if the teachers are going to move with the students. Superintendent Dotson explained they are going through that right now, and they have met with the principals at each building and the HR team to start that discussion. He discussed the intersection with the transfer process. He hopes to accommodate all the kids who want to stay. They want to make as few shifts as possible. He mentioned staff additions, to serve all the students.

Rita asked if there was a deadline for students to decide if they are going to stay. Superintendent Dotson explained he would show the timeline in his Superintendent report.

Rita brought up the K-3 compliance, Jim stated TSD compliance is around $237K. He also stated TSD is not in compliance at the moment, they are at 17.4. They are working with HR to look at a couple positions that are split with LAP, and they can move those to help with the average and get it down to 17 so they don’t lose that funding. Jim stated the funds are minimal.

Superintendent Dotson also reminded the Board that the 17 is not an actual number, but an average of teachers, specialist etc to get to that average.

1st Reading, 20/21 School Year Calendar Beth Scouller discussed the proposed calendar for the next school year. Since Labor day is so late, they had the option of asking TEA if they would like to vote to have the school year start a week earlier. The teachers voted not to start early, so school is set to start the Wednesday after Labor Day (Sept 9, 2020 and end June 21, 2021). A few changes from the past practice were discussed. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a day off instead of a half day, due to the instructional hours needed. TEA suggested to try to build snow days into the school year, Feb 16 and May 28 would be scheduled as no school days unless there are days that need to be made up for snow or like in the past, a strike. February 16, the day after President’s Day is typically mid winter break, but May 28, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, has not typically been a day off in the past. The Board was concerned that teachers and students would consider these days off even if they were changed to school days and concern over having a Monday as the last day of school. There was a lot of discussion on this, so there still could be some changes. A copy of the proposed calendar is also available on our resources page.

1st Read Proposed 20/21 school year calendar

1st Reading, Policy 3211, Gender Inclusive Schools Language changed to match practices. A copy of this document is also available on our Resource page.

SUPERINTENDENT REMARKS

Enrollment– TSD enrollment is right around the budgeted number, they started out below, rose above it and then dipped below. This is a general trend for enrollment the past several years. A discussion on how numbers are calculated and why Skills Center and Running Start students aren’t counted. They don’t count them in enrollment for budgeting purposes since the money follows the student. They work with FTE(full-time Equivalents) for budget, so part time students are counted as part time for budgeting. Overall they are staying very close to the budgeted numbers.

Fund Balance

Superintendent Dotson showed the graph from last month for the fund balance. The fund balance follows the typical trend lines of previous years. This month they dropped from $4 MM to $3MM, the minimum fund balance of 4% is at $3.8MM. So they have been above that number until this month. Each year there is a dip around this time of year and increases in October and April when they get the Levy money. This year October Levy money was not as much as last year since they put a cap on what could be collected, but April should be higher since they increased the cap. There was also talk of CTE enrollment being higher at the middle level and therefore the amount OSPI distributed was more. This may not be a true increase since CTE courses offered this fall may have been the courses offered in last spring and it may drop in the Spring. TSD predicts (using OSPIs estimator tool) that they will end the year right around the 4%. Superintendent mentioned they like to keep one months expenses in the fund balance and for Tumwater that would be $7.8MM, they are at about $3.8MM. With a bottom out number in March of $1.9 MM or 2%.

Some things they are watching that will impact the budget, CTE enrollment, SEBB payments, any employee over 630 hours will require TSD to pay into SEBB and TSD is planning for an increase in SEEB costs due to this change. Next year bargaining, step increases, increases in Sped and unexpected costs (the car breaks down) are all factors that will effect the fund balance. Superintendent Dotson has mentioned that they intend to work to get the fund balance back up.

Transfer Policies

Both transfer policies were approved. Superintendent Dotson explained the other side of that is the procedures that they have been working on. He mentioned the community was concerned about the order in which transfers were accepted. He mentioned the Thought Exchange and the feedback that was received. He stated he didn’t see anything that changed substantially, there are differing opinions and not everyone will agree. He stated the vast majority seems to continue to lean toward this being the right order. (I wrote a blog with the details you can read here or you can look at the documents on our Resources page).

In summary:

1-full-time staff children, by law, have first priority.

2-intra-district students continuing at the school they are currently enrolled(further divided to give boundary displaced students top priority). A discussion on the boundary changes occurred and Superintendent Dotson felt this procedure would work if another revision were to occur, he also stated this is not a guarantee that they will be accepted, but that they will be given priority.

3-intra-district siblings of students currently enrolled in a school

4-New Intra-district Students

5-Non-Resident renewals

6-Non-resident Siblings

7-New non-resident requests.

If enough spots are not available to accommodate all the applications, a lottery will occur at that level. No more first in first accepted.

Timeline for requests:

March -Most of the requests would be received beginning in March. All the full-time staff, intra-district renewals, new intra-district requests for 1st -12 grades. And then renewals for non-residents. At the end of March they could accept transfers in the order above, employing a lottery if needed.

April-new Non-resident requests. And then at the end of April they should have a good idea of how many spots they have available.

August-Kindergarten requests. The uncertainty of how many Kindergarteners they will have makes it difficult to accept transfers any earlier than August.

Annual Verification

Superintendent Dotson mentioned a lot of concern on the Thought Exchange for annual verification. He was hesitant to employ this as a District wide verification, but the procedures allow for a school wide or a grade level if they deem it necessary. Peter G was mentioned as a pilot school for this project.

Legislative Update

No levy or staff funding bills have moved out of committee before the deadline. Although if the members have a bill they really want to get through, they can deem it necessary to implement.

Senate Bill 6117 is a Special Education Appropriations Bill is part of this session. It is a bill recommended by OSPI which will provide a small increase in funding for Special Education.

There was a bill to correct for districts like TSD who have Senior staff, but are not receiving extra funding, but this does effect the budget Superintendent Dotson said he is watching to see if that bill ends up going anywhere, since it didn’t make the cutoff.

This is a list of bills with cost implications that did make the cutoff:

These are all bills that will cost more money and no extra appropriations for them.

February 27 Work Session

The following list are the topics they plan to discuss at the February 27 work session. Rita asked about adding the Diversity Policy, Superintendent Dotson explained they would need to cut something to add that in. Melissa asked about highly capable and accelerated enrollment.

BOARD MEMBER COMMENTS

Scott Killough mentioned that he has not been able to attend many things during the day, but attends things in the evenings. He attended Little Women, Momma Mia, the men’s and women’s basketball games. He is trying to get to each elementary PTA PTO meetings.

Rita Luce-met with legislators. She mentioned Olympia SD possibly changing the school start times. She attended the basketball games.

Casey Taylor-At the board meeting last month, they got to walk around BHHS, and the next day met with Lisa Summers and played some pickleball with the students. He also met with Jeff Broom and walked around THS. Attended basketball games for girls and boys. He attended the legislative conference but was disappointed in the politicians.

Darby Kaikkonen- attended the basketball game, She continues to be part of BMS PTO, She appreciated attending the legislative conference, and plans to visit Lisa Summers at BHHS.

Melissa Beard-She too went back to BHHS the day after the meeting to play pickleball with Lisa Summers. She visited THS for her alumni association, She mentioned she noticed THS had a meeting for Spanish speaking families, this group meets the first Tuesday of each month to help them understand the resources available. Next month they will be learning about Skyward. She attended the Momma Mia and Little Women. Talked about the sign holding for the Levy and thanked the community for the support.

Regular meeting recessed to Executive Session to discuss Personnel Performance, Evaluation or Qualifications for Employment

FEBRUARY 11TH BALLOT—2 LEVIES

The TSD Board has decided to run two levies in a Special Election set for February 11, 2020.  We have been receiving lots of inquiries as to what is actually on the ballot, so I figured I would provide a brief outline as to the action TSD is seeking from the voters. According to the TSD website


On November 14, 2019, the Tumwater School Board of Directors passed two resolutions that will place these measures on the February 11, 2020 ballot:

1.Four-year Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy. This would allow the district to collect $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for four years, from 2021-2024, replacing the current levy that ends in 2020. 

2.Two-year Capital Facilities Levy. This would allow the district to collect $10M in funding over two years (2021-2022). The estimated tax impact is $.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

I will refer to the 4 year levy as the “EP&O” levy and the 2 year levy as the “Capital” Levy.  

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY MONEY BE USED?

The TSD website contains the following description of the EP&O levy:  The Replacement EP&O Levy pays for ongoing costs including educational programs and operating costs that are not fully funded by the State. The Replacement EP&O Levy on the ballot will help support: Additional staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, safety & security), Career & Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs, Special Education, The Arts, Music and Theater, Advanced Placement, and Athletics .

The majority of the EP&O levy money fills the gap between what the State allocates and what TSD pays its employees.  In addition, the State does not fund many other line items that TSD provides, and I imagine families expect.  The below table shows just a few examples highlighted by TSD:

asic-Ed

The McCleary case determined that basic education should be funded at the State level.  In theory, the State Legislature has determined it will provide funds for basic ed, and the local districts should not have to contribute funds for basic ed. 

I doubt the State is providing adequate funding in most districts and there is no dispute the funding provided to TSD is wholly inadequate, at least in relation to historical practice.   TSD employs more people, and pays those employees more, than the state funding model suggests.  TSD taxpayers generally support additional funding, which has resulted in higher quality staff, and better student/teacher/administrator ratios.  

TSD has traditionally used levy funds to fill the gap.  Just to be clear, this was the practice even prior to the McCleary fix and contract negotiations in 2018.  

HOW DID TSD DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY?

This one is easy.  TSD is asking for the maximum amount allowed under the law.  TSD voters previously approved levies that were over $3 per $1,000.  However, as part of the McClearly fix, the legislature capped the amounts local districts could ask for and thus TSD was limited to collecting $1.50 per $1,000 starting in 2019.  While this was supposed to be a permanent fix, with some outcry from those involved with education, the legislature capped the amount at $2.50 per $1,000 starting in 2020.  Under current law, TSD could not run an EP&O levy for any amount greater than $2.50 per $1,000.     

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED CAPITAL LEVY MONEY BE USED?

Here is the description of the Capital Levy provided by TSD:

The Capital Facilities Levy will pay for facility improvements and repairs, pre-planning costs for the next new Tumwater school, improved safety and security of our facilities, critical repairs to our buildings, and new technology for our students.

Here is a list of items that TSD is saying would be funded by the Capital levy:

PO

ARE THE LEVIES NEW TAXES?

Sort of, but the net effect is comparable to what has been collected in past years.  The EP&O levy is a replacement for an expiring levy.  The taxpayers previously approved a similar levy for 2016-2020.  If no action is taken, the levy sunsets so TSD must get voter approval to continue to collect the money.  Almost all districts run levies every 4 years or so.  

While the Capital Levy is a new levy, the rates for the bonds have adjusted, so the net effect if the Capital levy passes is that the amount collected from taxpayers will be very similar to what has been collected in recent years.  Here is a chart TSD used at a recent Board meeting. 

evy-rate

The end result is that if both levies pass, at least for the next two years, TSD will collect roughly the same amount from taxpayers as it has collected in most of the recent years.  TSD has been collecting about $5 per $1000 assessed(a mixture of EP&O levy and Bonds).  The bond rates(green above) that have previously been approved decrease over the next two years.  So, when you tally up the proposed EP&O levy($2.50), Bond($1.75) and proposed Capital levy($.75) the total amount is right at $5 per $1000 of assessed value, which is what TSD has been collecting.

If both levies are rejected, TSD would collect only the bond amount($1.75).  If the EP&O levy is approved and the Capital levy rejected, TSD would collect about $4.25 per $1000.  

As stated above, the EP&O levy is just replacing the old EP&O levy. So, while the Capital levy is a new tax, TSD is banking on the taxpayers being willing to pay the same amount as past years in lieu of receiving a tax reduction of $.75 per $1000 and rejecting the Capital levy.    

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEVY AND A BOND?  

TSD has the option of running levies and/or bonds.  I posted a previous blog that detailed some of the differences, which can be found here.  In simple terms:  

1.LEVIES ARE FOR LEARNING AND BONDS ARE FOR BUILDING.  Levies take care of short term operational needs(think salaries, extra curricular activities, maintenance, technology, etc) and bonds are used to fund long term projects(construction of schools).   

2. LEVIES REQUIRE 50% VOTER APPROVAL, WHILE BONDS REQUIRE 60% VOTER APPROVAL.  

WHAT IS THE VOTING HISTORY IN TSD

Over the past few decades, TSD has routinely asked taxpayers to provide additional funding for education and the taxpayers have consistently approved such requests.   See the below chart—-Since 2003, TSD voters have approved each bond and levy put before them, usually by a pretty healthy margin(even though 2003 passed with just .04% to spare). 

***EP&O used to be called M&O—they are the same thing.  

***Levies are in brown while Bonds are in Green.  

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE EP&O LEVY IS NOT APPROVED?

Significant reduction in staff, program cuts across the board, reduction in services, etc.  A levy rate of $2.50 brings in at least $15,000,000 per year(see chart below).  TSD’s total budgeted income is about $94,000,000 a year, so the income from the levy is about 16% of TSD’s total income.   TSD has made a lot of reductions over the past few years, and I do not believe there is much “fat” left to be cut.  TSD has already burned through its savings.  In any budget, a 16% reduction of income would be felt districtwide.  TSD not passing an EP&O levy would necessitate $15,000,000 in cuts, and undoubtedly result in renegotiation of all employee contracts, drastic changes to many programs, reduction in staff, etc.   

evy

WHAT HAPPENS IF CAPITAL LEVY IS NOT APPROVED BY VOTERS?

Like any budget, the import of the listed items is somewhat subjective.  As an example, the preplanning for a new elementary school is a questionable use of resources as TSD should be at least 5 or 6 years from needing another elementary school.  Another flashpoint is the student devices line items.  The 2014 Bond approved Chromebooks for TSD students.  That 2014 bond was a one time shot and does not cover replacement or repair of the Chromebooks.  If TSD wants the students to have Chromebooks, it needs more money.  

That being said, I am not one to throw the “baby out with the bathwater” and appreciate the taxpayers cannot, and should not, be able to line item veto as part of the voting process.  In my view, the bulk of the Capital levy expenditures fall into two categories: (1)modernizing technology/safety and (2) updating infrastructure which may be beyond its useful life. 

The experience of TSD students could be much different if the Capital levy is not approved.  Could TSD effectively educate students without updated devices and network upgrades?   Would an investment in updated devices and network upgrades prove a valuable investment?  Is updating security within TSD a worthwhile undertaking?  Those questions need to be answered by the voters.  

Similarly, it is possible the outdated infrastructure may still have some functional life.  It is also possible a roof will leak, a boiler will fail and there may be some event wherein a sprinkler system at BLE could have been of great value.   If any of those events(along with others we are not even thinking of) happen, TSD would be forced to find the funds to make the repairs.  This would almost certainly strain the budget and result in some loss of, or at least difficulty providing, services.  

CONCLUSION

Rejection of the EP&O levy would result in drastic cuts felt by every student in some manner.  Rejection of the Capital levy would be painful, but not catastrophic.  I believe TSD hit the sweet spot in not seeking an increase, but also asking the taxpayers to invest essentially the same amounts they have been investing.  Thurston Community Media actually put together a youtube video wherein Superintendent Dotson makes a pretty good pitch for the levies.   

 The taxpayers must decide if these expenditures are a good investment.  As is indicated by the voting history, taxpayers in TSD have traditionally been pretty supportive of levies and bonds.  I have heard that some taxpayers are waiting on the outcome of the transfer committee(which should wrap up its work within the next few weeks), expressing some reluctance to approve more funding if TSD continues to have a liberal out of district transfer policy.    

Further, given some of the “open wounds” in the community as a result of the bargaining negotiations in 2018, the TSD leadership may have to work hard to educate the public about any possible levies/bonds that are placed on the ballot.  I would also suggest that TSD put out some information regarding the work of the transfer committee, as that appears to be an important factor with many voters.   

We encourage all voters within the TSD boundaries to get out and vote on February 11th and let your voice(or vote) be heard.  

As always, we welcome your questions, comments or suggestions.    

Scott Kee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Bonds, Levies and Budgets

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS

The TSD Board must decide relatively quickly(within the next 60 days) as to whether or not it is going run a levy, multiple levies and/or bonds.  I figured I would provide a brief outline of the difference between levies and bonds, and also lay out some of the options TSD has been discussing.  Most of this information was gathered from the September 12th budget workshop(which was after the scheduled Board meeting) and can be viewed here.  The budget workshop starts about 1 hour and 2 minutes into the meeting.  

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEVY AND A BOND?  

While a little oversimplified, here are the basic differences:  

——–Levies require 50% approval while Bonds require 60% approval. 

——–Levies take care of short term operational needs(think salaries, extra-curricular activities, maintenance, technology, etc) and bonds are used to fund long term projects(construction of schools).   

With the current Levy expiring in 2020, and some pretty significant Capital Projects that need to be funded, the TSD Board is currently engaged in a debate about what it should ask the citizens to kick in as levy/bond funds over the next few years.  

WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?

TSD’s current Education Programs and Operations(EP&O) levy has been voted approved through 2020.  So, in order to extend the levy in 2021 and beyond, there must be voter approval before 2021, so a vote needs to happen in 2020.   Most school levies/bond are run in the spring, and not in the November general election.  Any levy/bond must be approved by the Board, and the submitted for filing with the County Auditor.  Here is the timeline proposed by the Superintendent at the September 12th meeting.  

October 24th meeting—TSD Board approves levy/bond request 

December 13th filing date—Last day for TSD to file to be on the February ballot

February  11th—-Vote by TSD taxpayers in Special Election

There is not much time between now and the time the decision will be made so I would encourage you to contact the Board members and/or Superintendent if you want to provide any input.  

REFRESHER ON SCHOOL FUNDING AFTER THE MCCLEARY FIX.  

The McCleary case determined that basic education should be funded at the State level.  In theory, the State Legislature has determined it will provide funds for basic ed, and the local districts should not have to contribute funds for basic ed. 

The State provides funding based upon the prototypical school model.  The state model funds on a per student, not a per building, model.  TSD receives funds based upon how many employees are needed(as determined by the Legislature) in the prototypical school model.  As an example, at the elementary level, the state funds 1 librarian for every 603 students, 1 nurse for every 5,263 students and 1 custodian for every 241 students, and so on.  If a school has 300 students, TSD gets funding for one-half of a librarian.  If it has 1200 students, TSD gets funding for two librarians.  TSD must use levy funds to pay for all employees in addition to that which is funded in basic ed. 

roto

The same funding model is used for teachers, administrative staff and almost all other school employees.   I did a prior blog on this topic which can be found here.    

LEVY MONEY USED TO FILL THE GAP

I doubt the State is providing adequate funding in most districts.  There is no dispute the funding provided to TSD is wholly inadequate, at least in relation to historical practice.   TSD employs more people, and pays those employees more, than the state funding model suggests.  TSD taxpayers support additional funding, which results in higher quality staff, and better student/teacher/administrator ratios. 

TSD has traditionally used levy funds to fill the gap.  This was the practice even prior to the McCLeary fix and contract negotations in 2018, even though those factors resulted in much larger use of the levy funds.  

However, the current TSD levy expires in 2020.   Accordingly, TSD must pass a levy prior to the fall of 2020 or face the proposition of having no levy funds in 2021, which would result in drastic cuts.  Remember that TSD used to be able to collect about $3.00, then the Legislature restricted the amount that could be collected in 2019 to $1.50, and upped the amount to $2.50 for 2020 moving forward.  The amount of EP&O(previously Maintenance & Operations)levy money received by TSD is as follows(future years projected based upon an assumption voters will approve $2.50 rate):

evy

As noted above, 2019 presents a difficult year, much of that was due to a gap that created, and fixed, by the legislature which is discussed in a prior blog here.  The result is that, if voters approve the $2.50 rate, TSD will receive pretty historically comparable levy revenue.  The Board must decide if it will ask for the same, less or more.  If the voters opt not to approve the levy, TSD is in serious financial peril. 

WHAT IS THE LEVY MONEY USED FOR?

The majority of the Levy money fills the gap between what State allocates and what TSD pays its employees.  In addition, as Superintendent Dotson pointed out during his presentation, the State does not fund many other line items that TSD provides, and I imagine families expect.  The below table shows just a few examples highlighted by TSD at the Sept 12th meeting:

asic-Ed

WHAT WILL/SHOULD TSD ASK OF ITS TAXPAYERS?

The below table shows the levy and bond funds TSD has collected, and projects to collect, in the future.  Assuming a total of $5.00 tax rate(the green is the EP&O level and the tan is the Capital Projects bond), the taxpayer pays $5.00 for every $1,000 in assessed value.  So, if you have a house worth $300,000, you would pay about $1500.  Notably, this is about what taxpayers have been paying.  Superintendent Dotson pointed out that taxpayers like to see stability, so it appears TSD will ask for something around the $5.00 threshold taxpayers have become accustomed to paying. 

uture-tax-rate

WHAT IS THE VOTING HISTORY IN TSD

Bonds require 60% approval, while a levy(EPO, M&O) requires 50% approval.  Since 2003, TSD voters have approved each bond and levy put before them, usually by a pretty healthy margin(even though 2003 passed with just .04% to spare).  

oting

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS

Run an EPO levy OF $2.50 now.  TSD must run an EPO levy.  The voters not approving an EPO would result in at least $10,000,000 in cuts.  TSD has already burned through its savings and has to educate the students.  TSD not passing an EPO levy would necessitate renegotiation of all employee contracts, drastic cuts to all programs, reduction in staff, etc.   I am sure we will be talking about this in future blogs, but proposing an EPO levy at the maximum rate($2.50) is a no-brainer.  

The big question is if TSD asks for more than an EPO levy.     

Capital Facilities/Safety levy.   One of the objectives of the planning, which makes a lot of sense, is that, given the generosity of TSD taxpayers, TSD does not want to leave any money on the table.  If TSD just asks for an EPO levy, Tumwater taxpayers may end up paying less than $5.00(even though they may be willing to pay more).  If TSD taxpayers are willing to contribute, TSD certainly wants to pitch the need for other projects which could utilize those funds through a Capital Facilities levy.   Below is a list of “needs” as expressed by TSD at the last board meeting.  Keep in mind this would cover a 2 year time period.  

PO

One flashpoint is the student devices line items.  The 2014 Bond approved Chromebooks for TSD students.  That 2014 bond was a one time shot and does not cover replacement or repair of the Chromebooks.  If TSD wants the students to have Chromebooks, it needs more money.  Similarly, the $500K line item for Pre-Planning a new elementary school is also included.  The theory being that we will need a school at some point, and the planning cost could be incurred now. 

While I imagine people will have varying opinions about what money should be spent on, in my view, this is pretty good foresight.    My guess is that TSD will run a Capital Projects Levy that results in a total levy rate of around $5.00.   

Asking voters to approve a Bond for a New Elementary School.  The TSD Board appears to believe it might need a new elementary school sometime in the near future(3-4 years).  There is about a 3 year lag time between when funds are approved and when the school opens.  

The conclusion that a school is needed is primarily driven by projections that appear, at least to me, to be based on some flawed assumptions.  The gist of it is that the projectors(Gassaway—an outside demographer that is pretty good at what it does), assumed TSD’s enrollment for 2019 would be about 7,000.  We know that TSD’s enrollment is around 6100 in 2019.  This is no fault of the projectors as TSD had about 6600 students a few years ago, and was experiencing a growth of 200 or so kids a year when the projections were made.  However, the last 2 years have brought a decrease in students. 

The result is that the projections are flawed as almost all of the 2019 “projections” have not come to fruition–TSD just does not have that many students enrolled at present.  To highlight the example, when it did the analysis back in 2017, Gassaway projected TSD would have about 2900 elementary school students in 2019.  Presently, we actually have 2780, about 120 less than Gassaway projected.  

According to the capacity provided by the schools(even without portables) the schools have room for growth.  Absent a significant increase in enrollment, I do not see any need for another school within the forseeable future(5 years).  I would suggest asking for money for a new school is unwise at this moments.  

CONCLUSION

Given some of the “open wounds” in the community as a result of the bargaining negotiations in 2018, the TSD community may have to work hard to educate the public about any possible levies/bonds that are placed on the ballot.  Along that line, the Board needs to find the sweet spot with respect to the “ask” of the community.  Once that decision is made, or maybe even before depending on what information comes out, I am sure Tami and/or I will offer some updated information.  As always, we welcome your comments and encourage you to reach out to your Board members directly.