As of Tuesday, January 24, 2017
GRANGEVILLE Mountain View School District 244 will stick to status quo and plan for a 2017-18 levy in the same amount as the previous four years: $2,663,246.
The supplemental levy vote is set for March 14. Last year’s levy barely passed with 50.5 percent of voters in favor while the previous year’s election passed with 58.4 percent of voters in favor.
“The amount leaves us pretty tight, but I believe it’s a number we can live with,” said superintendent Kent Stokes at the regular monthly board meeting Jan. 17. “I really wish I could say we didn’t need to ask for this much, but I do feel this is what we need.”
Stokes said he is unsure on the status of Secure Rural School funding (former Craig-Wyden bill or forest funds) at this point.
“We will get a little more for the extra student population we have,” Stokes said, although he admitted that won’t help with the overall budget.
Patron Mary Ann Blees of Clearwater asked about this extra money.
“I thought the state was giving more money, so why does the levy amount need to be the same?” she asked.
Chair Mike Dominguez of Kooskia explained that MVSD 244 – along with most school districts in the state – pay teachers above the state salary schedule.
“We want the best educators and so we opt to pay a little more,” he explained, adding it can be difficult for rural districts to attract teachers, especially certain hard-to fill disciplines. “So when the state adds a little money, it still does not come up to what we currently pay each teacher.”
Stokes agreed there is no way to run a rural district on the current state funding formula.
“Their formula does not take into account rural schools or our geography issues,” he said.
Trustee Rebecca Warden of Grangeville said, “It’s as if the state sees us as one school.”
In that way, the state provided money for a certain number of teachers; however, those teachers must be spit up between Grangeville, Kooskia and Elk City.
Blees said she understood what was being said but still, “retiree income does not fluctuate, so when our taxes go up at all, we feel it,” she said.
Stokes also explained the state money is “predetermined where it is spent,” he said. “We spent $1 million a year on special education just to be compliant.”
“Yes, it’s true we have very little discretionary funds,” added trustee Lot Smith of Grangeville.
Stokes said he has “complained for years” for a fairer funding formula.
“Plus, I feel if we were given the discretionary funds, we could do a better job at making things work,” he shook his head.
For example, Dominguez lamented about the state of the Clearwater Valley High School track – or the lack thereof.
“Sometime I think we need to address this so the kids actually have a place to practice and something to run on,” he said.
He mentioned possible grant money and fund-raising in addition to MVSD providing matching money. He also said he knows the entire project would be in the $800,000 range.
“I just think it may be time to seriously look at it,” he said.
The board agreed unanimously to ask for the same amount as last year. Trustee Casey Smith of Clearwater was absent from the meeting.