WENATCHEE — Wenatchee’s elementary school assistant principals, teacher support positions, custodians and other posts slated for elimination to balance the budget could all be restored using newly accessible voter-approved levy dollars.
That’s the recommendation to the Wenatchee School Board by teacher and staff representatives for the estimated $5 million in levy funds the district has the authority to collect next year under revisions to the state’s new education funding plan. The Legislature at the tail end of this year’s session increased the local levy cap of $1.50 to $2.50 for every $1,000 of assessed value. The cap is part of a levy swap — limiting local taxes and increasing state school taxes — part of the state’s response to a court mandate to fund basic education.
“This puts the power in your hands to reverse virtually all the budget cuts that have been identified for our district,” Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron told board members at the May 14 meeting.
Wenatchee voters in 2017 approved a four-year maintenance and operations levy estimated to cost about $2.91 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. The district has been able to collect just $1.50 of that, leaving a funding gap for items previously supported by the levy.
The school board in February decided on a path to narrow the then-projected $5.2 million budget deficit for next year, including eliminating elementary school assistant principal positions and some other teacher support positions and using transfers to infill positions left by retirements and resignations.
The board has until August to decide whether to use available levy funds to fill out the budget, but Cameron encouraged them to decide now.
“Those who have been transferred, demoted or lost a position are out looking for other jobs and indeed we’ve already lost some of our best to neighboring districts,” she said. “Acting now will stem the exodus of talent.”
The Wenatchee School Board will discuss the levy lid lift and options at the Tuesday meeting. For information, see the district website.