Washington state lawmakers passed a budget Sunday that included billions in new revenue from tax increases. In addition to $1 billion for K-12 school construction, legislators also passed a bill to lift a cap on local school levies.
School districts are finalizing budgets for next year. And thanks to a narrowly-worded provision in the school levies bill, Vancouver and Evergreen will have a little help.
The legislation allows one-time assistance for the districts – $7 million each.
Evergreen schools were looking at an $18 million gap. In a statement, Evergreen Superintendent Mike Merlino thanked Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver.
“We are spared from making deep cuts of up to $18 million next school year, and remain cautiously optimistic that a longer-term solution will ensure better sustainability,” said Merlino.
Evergreen district leadership had recommended cutting more than 40 teachers and eliminating a district-wide printing service.
In Vancouver, a deficit between $14 and $17 million meant school leaders were looking to close a community pool and cut more than 30 teaching positions. Superintendent Steve Webb said in a statement the one-time resource will “ease our transition to the state’s new funding model.”
A Washington Supreme Court decision ordered the state to fully fund education, leading to legislative changes last year. But those changes also affected how much local school districts could raise in property taxes, leading some school officials with hard-to-explain budget projections.
Both of Southwest Washington’s largest districts point to declining student enrollment and increased labor costs as added reasons for budget deficits.
School districts in Oregon are also in the midst of finalizing 2019 budgets. Many district leaders see rising pension and healthcare costs consuming an increasing share of funds. A new tax proposal could similarly benefit Oregon schools, though the additional revenue won’t be secured in time for the upcoming school year.