WENATCHEE — A 30-cent increase in Wenatchee’s school levy rate in 2020 and 2021 will avoid further staff cuts and stabilize the district’s balance sheet.
That’s the conclusion reached by Wenatchee School District Superintendent Paul Gordon and Chief Financial Officer Larry Mayfield. The two are set to make a recommendation to the five-member Wenatchee School Board Tuesday to increase the levy rate.
The proposed levy increase would provide about $806,000 in revenue for the 2019/20 school year and $1.58 million for the 2020/21 school year.
Even with the additional funds, projections show the district will dip into its savings account as it adjusts to changes in the state school funding model that came with salary and benefit cost increases. The district also is facing a continued projected enrollment decline.
The additional revenue, though, would prevent further staffing cuts, according to information posted on the district's website that will be presented Tuesday.
A 30-cent hike would bring the levy rate to $1.80 for every $1,000 of assessed value. The state capped local school levies at $1.50 last year as part of a levy swap that also increased the state tax. At the end of this year’s legislative session, legislators lifted the local levy cap to $2.50.
Wenatchee voters in 2017 approved a levy amount estimated to cost $2.91. The state-mandated levy rollback created a revenue gap that led, this spring, to a series of reductions to narrow an anticipated $5.2 million shortfall. The cuts included eliminating elementary school assistant principal positions, teacher support positions, custodians and a variety of other posts. Most of the cuts were made using transfers to in-fill positions left by retirements and resignations and not renewing those on one-year contracts.
After legislators raised the cap to $2.50 this spring, district teachers and staff requested the board use some of the restored levy capacity to reverse program cuts underway. The board, in early June, opted to stay the course they had set earlier. They agreed then to give the new superintendent a chance to make a recommendation.
Gordon started on the job July 1.
Tuesday's board meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the district office, 235 Sunset Ave. It also will be broadcast live at wwrld.us/boardlive.
The board is expected to decide on the levy rate and final budget at its Aug. 27 meeting.