Levy Failure – Big Hurt

April 23rd, 2008 by Ken

There it was, spelled out for all to see.  One hundred certificated employees  (those with teaching certificates)  including 10 administrators, gone from the North Thurston Public Schools.  Another 150 classified employees (those without teaching certificates) also gone.

All school libraries closed.  All swimming pools closed.  The North Thurston Performing Arts Center closed.  All art and music teachers gone.  Elementary school band gone.  Vocational education, severely reduced.  South Sound High School all but gone.

Transportation vastly cut back.  All middle school extracurricular activities eliminated.  High school sports would be a play to pay proposition more than doubling in cost for participants.

School hours drastically changed.  Days shortened.  Lunch costs  increased.  And, most travel would be banned

Page after page, for nearly two hours, at a work session on Tuesday, North Thurston Public School Superintendent Dr. Jim Koval, outlined the cutbacks and reductions that would be necessary if the district experiences another levy failure on May 20.

Needing to cut $17.5 million out of the budget, Koval went over each cut step by step.  “I agonized over these recommendations for days,” he told the school board.  But we have no choice if we fail the levy again.”

But these weren’t the only cuts Koval had to recommend.  Even if the levy passes, the district will still have to make nearly $4 million in cuts because of the difference in state funding and public support versus school and parent demands.  “We aren’t the only ones forced to make these cuts,” Koval said.  “All up and down the I-5 corridor school districts are being forced to cut back.”

The $4 million reduction in the district’s budget is made up primarily by eliminating the Safe Schools/Healthy Students program, going to combined classrooms in some elementary schools, reducing transportation costs by changing starting and ending school times and making several other cuts and reductions.

North Thurston Public Schools has about 13,500 students.  To serve this varied group of youngsters the district employs 815 certificated  FTE teachers and 855 FTE classified employees.  Classified employees include secretaries, bus drivers, cooks and janitors just to name a few.  Add in coaches and other part time employees and the district writes checks for about 2000 people each month.

It’s the largest school district in the county. It  runs the largest restaurant in the county as well as the largest transportation system in the county.

North Thurston was formed in 1953 when the Lacey and South Bay school districts combined.   While the district has failed a maintenance and operations levy before, it has only suffered one double-levy failure and that was in 1992.  Voters came back the next year and approved the levy.

While school administrators will not say so for publication, most of them feel the district will pass the levy on its second try on May 20.  Passage of the Rochester School levy on April 22 gives them hope.  Some 600 voters in Rochester, who had voted against that district’s levy in February, turned around and voted to approve the levy in April giving the district a 60 percent approval, when only 50 percent is needed.

North Thurston failed its levy by about 1100 votes.  The district needs to convert 600 of those no voters to yes voters to have a chance to pass the levy when it’s on the ballot on May 20.

Posted in Government, The Real News

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