Vashon’s school board recently passed a no-cuts budget for the upcoming school year that includes modest teacher raises, the elimination of some fees and added funding for some school programs.
The Vashon School District’s operating budget for the 2015-2016 school year, approved at the July 9 board meeting, is $19.4 million, up from about $17.6 million last year. The added funding comes in part from the state Legislature’s moves to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary Decision. Lawmakers recently approved a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase for teachers — which on Vashon will be funded in part by the state and in part by the district — and added funding in a variety of other areas. Vashon teachers and some other staff will also receive an additional 2 percent salary increase that was negotiated with the district two years ago.
School board chair Laura Wishik said that while the state is far from fully funding education, the added money helps.
“The Legislature hasn’t really done what it needs to yet, but they’ve moved a small step in the right direction,” Wishik said.
The district will also see slightly more funding from local property taxes and some added funding from increased enrollment.
With the increased revenue, the schools added the full-time equivalent of nearly five staff members. About $75,000 was budgeted for a new second grade teacher to maintain smaller class sizes, and about $100,000 for additional counseling staff at the elementary and middle schools, something Wishik said teachers have requested.
Staffing was also added to maintain class sizes in core subjects at the high school, costing about $90,000, and to provide an alternative high school program that was piloted last year, costing about $85,000.
The board also voted to spend about $18,000 to eliminate fees for courses without consumable materials, such as band and foreign languages. Matt Sullivan, the district’s director of business services, noted that the district still doesn’t know exactly how much state funding it will receive, and board members hope that some additional funding can be used to further cut fees.
The school board also recently learned that capital projects it is considering for an upcoming bond measure will cost more than architects originally projected.
Integrus Architecture, which recently gave high-level estimates for Phase 2 projects such as a new gym and new track and field at the high school, left off some soft costs that will increase the estimates by 40 to 55 percent, according to Kim Goforth, the schools’ capital facilities director. For instance, options for a new gym originally estimated to cost $11.8 to $17.5 million are now estimated to cost $18.3 to $27.1 million.
Board member Dan Chasan called the error disappointing and said the district may get less for its money than originally thought, but noted that no planning had been done with the inaccurate numbers.
“It was kind of a nasty surprise, but I don’t think it has any real consequences,” he said.