Home > News > School Board votes to run 2-yr EPO levy in April; delays tech & bus levies

School Board votes to run 2-yr EPO levy in April; delays tech & bus levies

February 21, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Tahoma School Board listened to additional public comments, engaged in a lengthy discussion and polled the audience during a special board meeting Tuesday night. Board members voted 5-0 to place a two-year educational programs and operations levy on the ballot, at a rate of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Two other measures, to fund technology and buy buses, were postponed and will be considered for the November ballot after further study and communication with the community.

In addition, the resolution approved by the school board includes a “roll back” clause, which states that should the district receive more money from the state, the district could roll back the levies — an action that Tahoma has taken in years past.

Tuesday’s was the second special board meeting in less than a week; the board delayed a decision from Thursday’s special meeting in order to read through about 50 emails and think about the verbal public comments they heard. Public opinion expressed in person and via email ranged from asking the board to run no levy measures, to asking for a compromise of two-year levies, to asking them to rerun the exact same measures. Community members spoke of their love for the school system, teachers and staff; of the fact that they feel overtaxed and of their desire for transparency and asked for details of why the levy dollars are needed.

Board President Mary Jane Glaser thanked those in the audience, as well as those who spoke Thursday and others who sent email messages. “We want you to know that all of your voices were heard and matter to us,” Glaser added. Six additional public comments were made at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting.

Key in the board’s plan for how to proceed are the creation of a technology oversight committee and a financial oversight committee. While the board has not yet given criteria for the creation or the exact function of the two committees, in general the two committees will provide a venue for community member questions, feedback and oversight moving forward. There is an existing Tech Advisory Committee, but the new tech oversight committee would work in concert with that one and would be specific to the tech levy.

“One message I’ve gotten loud and clear is that we need better communication,” Board member Tami Henkel said.

If the measure in April does not pass, RIF (reduction in force) notices will have to be given and programs will have to be cut, Glaser said, noting that it is not a threat but rather a fact driven by the district budget. Without levy funds, athletics and extracurricular activities would have to be cut, in addition to cuts to programs such as music, STEM, art, band, the 8-period day at the high school, other clubs and activities and more.

Asking questions before voting to delay the tech and bus levy measures, the board wanted to know whether the district’s current funds and reserves could cover those costs. Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud said that yes, the board can utilize fund balance (reserve) dollars to cover some tech needs, although those will have to be reviewed. Board member Bill Clausmeyer asked whether the transportation department will be able to keep the fleet running well enough until the bus levy can be run again. Cloud said yes.

In summarizing his position before the vote, Clausmeyer said he is confident that the data community members have requested can be made available and clearly communicated.

“I’m sensitive to us needing to prove the need,” he said.

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