School Board Report: Preliminary proposal for ’12 technology/capital levy

At its meeting on June 21, the Edmonds School Board considered preliminary proposals for the 2012 Replacement Technology/Capital Improvements Levy which, if approved, will be in effect from 2013 through 2016. This levy would replace the current four-year levy, which expires in 2012. The vote will not occur until next February.

Staff presented two financial approaches to the new levy. The first would set the total amount to be raised at $31,500,000, or about the same level as the 2008 levy. A second approach would fix the levy rate at a fixed number of cents per $1000 of assessed value. Under this approach, the total amount collected would vary depending on the housing market. If property values continue to decline, the total collected over four years would decrease under this approach.

The priorities to be funded by the proposed levy reflect the work of the Citizens Planning Committee’s Operations subcommittee. That group spent much of the past year gathering information and requests from district schools.

The resulting proposal will direct more funds to capital improvements than the current levy. Capital improvement funds would be used to replace roofs on schools most urgently needing the repairs, and improve traffic and pedestrian safety at schools with the most problematic student pick-up/drop-off areas.

Technology funds would continue to replace computers, maintain existing networks, provide IT services, fund additional computers for non-teaching staff, and support new administrative functions.

Laura Barnes-Johnson, the Citizens Planning Committee chair, presented the committee’s year-end report. In addition to the work of the Operations subcommittee on the levy proposal, the Boundaries and Enrollment subcommittee worked to take population pressure away from Alderwood Middle School, resulting in the proposal — approved by the Board earlier this year – under which Spruce Elementary students will attend Meadowdale Middle School rather than Alderwood. The Education subcommittee worked on understanding the multi-tiered instruction process, designed to increase student achievement, as well as the district’s programs to serve high-achieving students.

Board members noted a number of areas where they would like to see CPC involved next year, including ways to help CPC members share their knowledge with other parents. They also thanked Barnes-Johnson, who is stepping down as CPC chair, for her service.

Marla Miller, Executive Director for Business and Operations, reported on the district’s reserves. District policy calls for a 4 percent fund balance. Due to mid-year revenue reductions and unanticipated increases in certain expenses such as transportation for homeless students and fuel costs, the level at the end of 2011 will be 2.76 percent. It may be possible to build that back up to 4 percent by the end of next school year.

As part of its budgeting process for next year, the school board is anticipating reductions in salary expenses. Board President Susan Paine reported that members of the administrative staff have agreed to five furlough days over the next school years, a concession for which the Board is very grateful.

Human Resource Director Debby Carter introduced proposed changes to equal employment opportunity and equal education policies necessitated by changes in state and federal law. The equal employment policy will now prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of honorably veteran or military status and use of a trained dog guide or service animal. While current policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the revised policy will also cover gender expression or identity. The board will vote on the policies at a later meeting.
Linda Shipp, administrative assistant to the assistant superintendent, was nominated to be honored by the Board. The actual award ceremony will occur at Shipp’s retirement party.

In their concluding remarks, board members congratulate the district’s recent graduates. Paine also distributed materials from the National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators, which are working together toward “deregulation” of No Child Left Behind and urging school board members to ask Congress for more flexibility. The board will discuss this at a later meeting.

Superintendent Nick Brossoit announced that The Hazel Miller Foundation has donated $25,000 to a fund to bring Rachel’s Challenge to the district. With $5,000 in state funding on hand, the district is two-thirds of the way toward raising the $45,000 it needs. The staff will now book speakers and make other advance arrangements to bring this widely hailed violence prevention program to the schools next year.

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