June 19 - Meeting Information

2020 Levy Development Committee 5:30-8:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Administration Building, 565 N.W. Holly St., Issaquah


  1. Welcome and Introductions
    • Jake Kuper and Josh Almy
  2. Review and Action on Meeting Minutes     
    • Jake Kuper
  3. Review and Questions from June 5, 2019 Meeting
    • Jake Kuper, Josh Almy, and Technical Team
  4. Guiding Questions
    • Is the springboard proposal feasible/reasonable?
    • Will the general public support this measure? Why or why not?
    • What message is most important to communicate to stakeholders? (Tax rate, Programs, Renewal, etc.)
    • Should the springboard be passed and provided to the Superintendent as the committee's recommendation?
  5. Next Steps and Closure  

Mini Summary

Mini Summary will be available after the meeting date.

Meeting Minutes

2020 Levy Development Committee – Unofficial Minutes – June 19, 2019

The meeting was convened at 5:35 p.m.


In attendance: Marta Burnet, Jennifer Kessler, Mark Clemens, Karissa Mobilia, Minal Kode Ghassemieh, Meredith King, Amy Bettinger-Werner, Andrew Guss, Dana Rundle, Claudia Huzar, Michael Tarlowe, Jenny Jirsa, Stephanie Olson, Alisa George, Lori Riskin, Martin Buckley, Stacy Morford, Nichole Wengert, JoEllen Tapper, Kathy Keegan, Drew Terry, Stacy Cho, John Gardiner, Erin McKee, Tammy Unruh, Loren Krogstad, Keith Hennig, Leslie Kahler, Alicia Veevaert, Gary Arthur, Jody Mull, Erin Eaton, John Gorow, Kelly Munn, Mike Sullivan


Dr. Josh Almy welcomed the committee and made introductions. He directed the committee to the minutes from the June 5, 2019 meeting, asking them to take a few minutes to review.


The committee reconvened By Mr. Kuper at 5:38.

A motion was made and seconded to approve the minutes from the June 5, 2019 Levy Development committee meeting.

By a show of hands, the motion was unanimously approved.


Mr. Kuper shared emails that he had received from community members; those that were send directly to him as well as comments sent to the Levy mailbox.

A community member asked what would be taken away if the levy did not pass. Mr. Kuper stated he does not solely make that decision. The districts largest cost is labor so cutting cost often means cutting people. Most likely it would be a mixture of program and staffing. In addition, class size would be affected. For every one student increase in class size the district saves $2.5 million. The district would most likely make those increases in grades 4-12 as the state provides a financial incentive for lower K-3 staffing.

A concern from a community member was the inadequate level of service being provided by transportation. Mr. Kuper explained that dollars spent to increase bus routes were dollars that were diverted from the classroom. He admitted that while some routes are crowded, this actually increases the efficiency. He pointed out that there is a balance between a comfortable bus route with plenty of seating and an optimal busload that results in less transportation spending.

Mr. Kuper also affirmed that the district responded to all inquiries.

A committee member asked if it were possible to prioritize the enrichments. That we could sort into “must-haves” and these are “nice to haves”. Mr. Kuper responded that the district recognizes that community members have differing priorities and so would not rank order the list. In addition, the district needs to be factual in what programs we fund with levy dollars. If the levy were to fail, we would cut program and possibly increase class size. It would be a combination of the items on the enrichment list, staffing and other programs not mentioned on the enrichment list.

A committee member mentioned that in talking with their neighbor does not want to pay for a tax increase. Mr. Kuper that even our best election results in a 30% no vote. That one mission of the committee is to bring residents from all over the district and explain why the levy is a good value.

A community member mentioned that it seems inappropriate to list Special Education funding as an enrichment as we are legally required to provide instruction to those students. That it feels like we are singling out a certain group of students and doubts we would actually cut those services if the levy failed. Mr. Kuper responded this is an unfunded mandate and while a difficult decision to call out on list, that it is necessary to educate the public that there is a shortfall. In addition, we have sued the State of Washington over special education funding, but we lost our case. The State of Washington also allows us to use levy dollars to fund special education. He also pointed out that the enrichment list includes nursing services, mental health services and so in a way those groups may feel singled out as well.

A community member asked what was the response to the community member who asked if their taxes were going up. Mr. Kuper pointed out that in 2018 the property value in the district was $29.8 Billion. In 2019, that number is $33.6 Billion. This is a combination of increased property value and new construction of approximately 600 million. These both add to increasing our tax base. Mr. Kuper pointed out the tax rate with this levy is actually lower. The actual tax bill is very complicated to determine because it is a factor of where you live, assessed value, and assessed value of the entire district. A committee member pointed out that his taxes decreased over the last year. Mr. Kuper says he needs to speak in generalities, as different homes pay different amounts. Mr., Kuper pointed out that we would be asking for the lowest tax rate in 20 years.

A community member point out that while the current EP&O levy will increase our tax rate, that when added to what we have already levied, the rate actually decreases. It is important to focus on the blended rate. That this is a function of how our debt is structured.

Mr. Kuper stated that when asking for levy dollars it is important to assure the community that we are good caretakers of their tax dollars. A community member mentioned that some in the community are concerned that many staff have been pulled out of the buildings into administration. That this may only be a perception, but still needs to be addressed. Mr. Kuper assured the committee that the Issaquah School District actually has the lowest overhead of any district in King County-, which is 9.26% versus 12.29% in King County. While there has been some increase of staff at the district level, there have also been retirements and other personnel movement. This in turn creates opportunity for promotion from the buildings. This can be seen as a positive as we are committed to promoting and growing our own leaders within the district ranks. The Issaquah school district is also fortunate to have programs that require less administrative overhead.

A committee member noted that the program costs listed do not match. Mr. Kuper responded that there is a difference of Fiscal Year vs. Calendar year. A two-year levy will affect 3 fiscal years

Mr. Kuper also noted some other expenses. That our district health care would incur a significant increase of $3.3-4 million dollars with transition to a statewide plan. In addition, when bringing new buildings online there are additional start-up costs of administrators, custodians, insurance, utilities and other fixed costs. Currently our buildings are overcrowded. This makes them more efficient. When we build out, they become less efficient from an overhead standpoint.

The committee adjourned at 6:42 for a brief break

The committee convened at 6:49


Mr. Kuper put two questions to the committee: Is the Springboard feasible and reasonable? And the second question, will the general public support this measure, why and why not? He asked them to keep in mind that 70% of our district does not have school age children.

The committee broke into small groups to discuss for 6 minutes

The committee then shared their table discussions with the committee as a whole. All tables reported that they felt the Springboard was both reasonable and feasible. Felt it was important to refine our talking points. They felt their might be some reluctance from the community since McCrery should be paying for more. That messaging and voter education would be critical in getting the passage of the levy. Should be wary of voter fatigue.

Dr. Josh Almy then had the committee break into small group to discuss how we message/communicate to our voters.

The committee broke into small groups to discuss for 6 minutes.

The committee then shared their table discussions with the committee as a whole. They stated the importance of clearly spelling out what the combined tax rate is. How funding cuts would affect programs. Educating the community on gaps in public education and how the state model does not fully fund. They stated we need to speak about the districts high educational standards. Some felt we should highlight the districts low cost of overhead for administration, our excellent bond rating and clean audits. They mentioned that property values are also increased by an excellent school district.

A committee member expressed concern over using the word “enrichment” on the ballot. Mr. Kuper directed the committee to look at the ballot language as it appeared on the last ballot. He noted that word usage will be important to educate voters. The ballot will show just the amount we are asking for years 2021 and 2022. It will not show the blended rate on the ballot.

Dr.Almy then asked the committee to break into groups and discuss if they were comfortable with the springboard and if so, if they would want to put a motion on the table. He mentioned if more discussion was needed, that we could go to a third meeting.

The committee broke into small groups to discuss for 6 minutes.

The committee returned and shared that they while they had concerns regarding messaging and communication, they all felt the Springboard should pass

A motion was made and seconded to approve springboard as presented and forward to the Superintendent..

By a show of hands, the motion was approved by a vote of 34 to 35.


Mr. Kuper noted that the committee can only pass on a recommendation to the Superintendent. Mr. Thiele will then choose if he will take their Springboard as stated or if he will make edits prior to taking it to the School Board. The School Board has the ultimate authority on if the measure goes on the ballot. He thanked the committee for their participation in the process, noting he was happy to see a mix of experienced committee members as well as new faces. He felt this was a strength and the committee represented many stakeholders. This will be the first single measure the district has put on the ballot.

Mr. Thiele then thanked the committee for their time. He stated the conversations were invaluable to better understand the needs of the district and how to articulate our message going forward. He has had many conversations already surrounding the levy and will continue to do so. He is sensitive to the message of targeting certain groups. He will keep the conversation open and will share back as the process goes forward. He felt that it was his responsibility to secure revenue for programs going forward and would be working hard to educate and have conversations with as many community groups and stakeholders as he can. He can be reached by phone and email directly, or can use the levy mailbox: Levy2020@issaquah.wednet.edu . While he cannot promise that his final recommendation will look the same, it will be close.

Mr. Thiele then introduced the Committee to Dawn Peschek and Alicia Veevaert, chairs for Volunteers for Issaquah Schools. They explained their role in the process. The District must remain neutral and only provide factual information. Their group of volunteers then takes this information and actively campaigns for the passage of the levy. They state that if the Board takes action in August, they will move forward with their campaign in early September. Ideally, they are hoping the timeline will allow them the opportunity to present at the district curriculum nights. They advised the committee they could get involved and that more information was available on their website and Facebook page.

The meeting adjourned at 8:01pm

Materials - EP&O Levy and Springboard Proposal Presentation from June 5, 2019 Meeting