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School board to vote on budget, bond

Board members to vote on both $81.5 million budget and $84.5 million bond at Monday meeting


The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board will vote on two resolutions at its Monday meeting. If approved, each would carry financial implications for the district’s residents and taxpayers.

The board will vote on whether to adopt the 2014-15 budget recommended by its budget committee, working under the direction of budget committee chair Jeff Hallin. The school board approved an $81.5 million budget at its work session May 19, but has yet to adopt it.

During that work session, Superintendent Bill Rhoades used positive language to describe both the proposed budget and the district’s financial outlook.

“We feel positive and very encouraged about where we are financially right now,” Rhoades said.

After the school board accepted the committee’s budget recommendations May 19, Chairman Keith Steele said the document was part of the district’s “success story.”

“We’re actually building our programs back,” he said. “This is a really good news year.”

The 2014-15 budget reflected a brighter financial outlook than in recent years. For Steele, who joined the school board when the effects of the recession were in full swing, the improvements were especially marked.

“I started in 2009 and as you recall we were laying off teachers in record numbers,” Steele said. “The budget process back then was pretty dark.”

At that time, school board members grappled with this difficult question, Steele recalled: “If we have to cut millions of dollars, how do we cut it to have the least negative impact?”

Many factors combine to improve district finances

The 2013-14 school year continued the district’s recovery from that low point. A total of 29 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees were added last year in an effort to reduce class sizes to effective levels district-wide. The 2014-15 budget not only sustains those positions but also allows for 14 to 16 additional FTEs.

The district’s improving finances are attributable to a variety of things, including increased state school funding and the reallocation of educational service district funding. For WL-WV, increasing enrollment also plays a part.

“We’re very blessed in that this is a district people want to be in,” Steele said.

Increased enrollment brings increased funding from the state, which allocates funding to schools on a per-student basis using a complicated formula known as average daily measurement, weighted, or ADMw. WL-WV’s student population increased nearly 4 percent from 2012 to 2013. That compares to a statewide average increase of 0.6 percent over the same period.

Some of the district’s new students are here because of growth in both cities. Others arrived under the district’s open-enrollment policy, which the board voted in February to extend for the third straight year; in 2014-15, up to 180 students may transfer in to WL-WV from other school districts.

The state pays out ADMw funds monthly, and the amount can be adjusted slightly from one period to the next. In February, WL-WV business manager Doug Middlestetter reported ADMw of $6,825 per student; the figure for students who transfer in under open enrollment is slightly less, at $6,549, because neither the state nor the school district bears the cost of transporting transfer students to and from school.

Expiration of bond leaves uncertainty

Over the last biennium, WL-WV made it a priority to restore school days and offer a full school year as the district began to recover from the recession. The 2014-15 budget would continue that trend.

“We get to have some of the discussions about how to invest that money to have greater impact,” Steele said. “It’s a much happier place to be.”

One area of financial uncertainty remains. But the board will take steps to resolve that by voting Monday on a resolution that would place an $84.5 million general obligation bond before voters next fall.

District voters approved a $98 million general obligation bond in 2008 that was used to open Trillium Creek Primary in West Linn and Lowrie Primary in Wilsonville. Other capital improvement projects completed under that bond included the remodeling or construction of libraries and kitchens at existing schools, improvements to athletic fields, district-wide technology improvements and the renovation of the district administration building on Stafford Road.

The 2008 bond also included many deferred maintenance projects and other improvements that will fall under the general fund category in the 2014-15 budget in the absence of bond funds.

Because the 2008 bond expires this year, the district’s long-range planning committee has approved a list of capital improvement projects a new bond might fund.

That “wish list” contains some big projects, including construction of a new middle school in Wilsonville, where enrollment at the existing middle school, Inza R. Wood, is well over capacity, and portable classrooms are in use.

Other proposed projects include site improvements at schools throughout the district as well as upkeep, maintenance and repairs to worn-out or outdated heating and ventilation systems and roofs.

Projects such as those would be included under a new general obligation bond if the board decides to put one before voters. The school board also will be considering a local option levy. Both the local option and the capital bond would effectively be renewals of existing, expiring bonds, and they would continue taxation at the current rate of $3 per $1,000 of assessed value (general obligation bond) and $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value (local option).

“It’s not part of an official board policy but an informal covenant with the community that we will work to keep general obligation rates at $3 per $1,000 or below,” Steele said. “We can’t say it will be exactly $3, but we shoot for $3 and it fluctuates within a few cents. We’re going to stick with that for as long as we can.”

Regarding the local option levy rate, Steele said, “The vast majority of people don’t pay the full amount ... That is the maximum rate it could be.”

The school board could vote to place both a general obligation bond and the local option levy on the ballot in November. Public opinion polling conducted by the school district indicated what Rhoades called “solid support” for a potential bond.

“With no increase to the tax rate, voters could have the opportunity to approve a bond ... that would allow us to maintain and protect our current investments in facilities, update our technology systems, update our systems of safety and security, add additional classroom space and to replace and update aging and outdated facilities,” he wrote in an email to district patrons May 19.

Community input sought

If the school board votes on Monday to approve the bond resolution, a committee will form to plan the bond campaign. Steele would be recruiting two members each from Wilsonville and West Linn, and he characterized the ideal candidates as “highly motivated doers.”

“These are PTO/PTA-type people who are active in schools and have some time and energy,” he said. “Anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves.”

Steele spoke from experience, having served on the last bond campaign.

“It’s a slow roll during the summer,” he said. “Come September it starts picking up in terms of the work that needs to be done. In October, the month leading up to the election, it’s a sprint to the finish line.”

Those interested in learning more about the opportunity to serve should contact Steele via email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

He also encouraged members of the public to attend the upcoming board meeting to learn about both the bond and the budget.

“It’s vital that we have robust and inclusive discussion about this spending, since it affects everyone as well as the quality of service and education we can offer,” he said. “The more people we can have involved in that discussion the better.”

The school board meeting will start at 7 p.m. Monday at the district office building, 22210 SW Stafford Road. Community members may offer comments during a specific portion of the agenda; advance sign-in is required. View the meeting agenda online at wlwv.k12.or.us.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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