Tonasket School Board ponders levy options

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board is facing a number of decisions regarding the 2012 levy. Unfortunately, it may have to make those decisions before the Washington State Legislature makes its own choices concerning budget cuts.

Discussion of options for the upcoming levy was the primary topic of the Monday, Nov. 7, regular school board meeting.

“We have two questions we need to answer,” said superintendent Paul Turner. “The first, is when (Feb. 14 and Apr. 17 are the two options), and we need to make that decision at the next meeting.

“The second one is how much do we need to ask for and we have until January to decide that.”

That decision may need to be made before the legislature concludes its special session that convenes Nov. 28.

“We know cuts are coming,” Turner said. “But we don’t know where or how much.”

One proposal floated by the governor could result in a $200,000 reduction in Levy Equalization Act (LEA) funds provided to the district from the state.

Turner presented three general options to be considered: (1) Maintain the current levy rate of $2.22 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and cut the as-yet-unknown amount from the general education budget (curriculum, staffing, extended contracts, athletics, etc.) once the 2012 LEA is determined; (2) increase the levy to offset the LEA reduction but not enough to compensate for other anticipated budget reductions (which would increase the levy rate to about $2.62 per $1000); or (3) increase the levy enough to cover all anticipated revenue reductions (such as a potential cut that would eliminate all transportation funding).

“We really need to do an assessment of our needs before we start asking for money,” said board vice chairwoman Patti Baumgartner. “It needs to be itemized. Not knowing what the LEA is will be a difficulty.”

Board chairman Jerry Asmussen added that dollar amounts needed to be attached to specific needs.

“We need to communicate what will get done and what will not get done with our funding, not just talk (in general terms) about dollars,” he said.

“It’s really important we get as much information out as soon as possible,” Turner said.

No action was taken on the levy.

Turner also reported that the staff is examining some professional development options in the wake of the suicide of a middle school student Nov. 2.

“We need to see if there are things we can do to prevent this,” he said. “It’s a heartache, and we need to see what more can do.”

On a more positive note, Turner lauded the work of new high school baseball coach Tim Cork and his staff for the work put in on the baseball field.

“The baseball coaches have already done a ton of work on the field and put in a lot of extra time,” he said. “They’re ready for baseball season to start now, and it’s not even December. It’s exciting.”

The board also continued work on its procedure overhaul, approving final readings the bulk of the new and revised 3000 series of policies, as well as the high school graduation and program evaluation policies. A vote on a new Freedom of Assembly policy was tabled to give high school principal Jeff Hardesty a chance to present his concerns to the board.

The board broke into a work session to continue the procedure revision process.

The Tonasket School Board is next scheduled to meet on Monday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. at the district office.