Dec. 2 - Meeting Information

2022 Levy Development Committee 5:30-8:00 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021

Location

Issaquah Middle School, 600 2nd Ave. SE, Issaquah

Agenda

  1.  Welcome - Ron Thiele and technical team
  2. Agenda review and meeting dates/times - Josh Almy
  3. Introductions of committee and technical team - Josh Almy
  4. Group operating norms and accessing community feedback - Josh Almy and Martin Turney
  5. Discuss and take action on quorum requirements and voting thresholds - Josh Almy and Martin Turney
  6. Presentations on school funding and the role of levies - Martin Turney
  7. EP&O Springboard proposal and questions - Martin Turney
  8. Transportation Levy Springboard proposal and questions - Martin Turney
  9. Overview of next meeting and Closure - Josh Almy

Meeting Mini-Summary

Official Action: The committee voted 35 out of 37 that approval from at least 70 percent of members in attendance is the threshold needed to pass a vote, and voting will be conducted by raised hands. To pass a vote, the quorum is 75 percent. 

Discussion: For the inaugural meeting, committee members introduced themselves and went through the charter and meeting operation norms. The Technical team presented an overview of Public School Finance. They also discussed what the Educational Programs and Operations Levy funds add to the district budget. They received the springboard proposals for EP&O and Transportation Levies.

Up next: Committee members will return December 14; they were directed to review the materials, solicit feedback from their respective community and return with questions and comments.

Official Meeting Minutes

ATTENDANCE

In attendance: Laura Ni, Nigar Suleman, Janelle Woffinden, Jen Kessler, Rachael Cox, A.J. Taylor, Lisa Reeder, Shannon Mayo, Toni Hunter, Heather Barker, Peter O’Donoghue, Janet Kelly, Claudia Huzar, Rachel Auffant, Care Maree Harper, Kristi Hammond, Carrie Hipsher, Meg Iyer, Erica Stephens, Korista Smith-Barney, Katelyn Shriber, Jane Harris, Kathy Keegan, LeAnn Tuupo, Michelle Caponigro, John Gardiner, Jeff McGowan, Ashley Landes, Sean Martin, Erin Connolly, Lauren Bartholomew, Dawn Peschek, Laura Berry, Chris Bruno, Joe Stanley, Scott McKorkle, Dana Rundle, Martin Buckley

WELCOME

Superintendent Ron Thiele opened the 2022 Levy Committee with a heartfelt thank you for your work on behalf of our community and appreciative of your attendance. 

The goal of the committee is to present him a recommendation that he can then take to the School Board. Once approved by the Board the measure would hopefully be placed on the ballot in early 2022. Levies are only one part of school finance and after McCleary we were unclear if we needed a levy. We have since learned that that it remains critical to provide our beyond our definition of basic education. He thanked the group again and looks forward to seeing the outcome.

Superintendent Thiele then introduced two members of the Technical Committee: Dr. Josh Almy, Deputy Superintendent and Mr. Martin Turney, Executive Director of Finance and Support Services.

Dr. Almy welcomed the committee and stated that over the next five meetings we are going to focus on three different levy measures that Mr. Turney will review later in the meeting. He stated that tonight is informational, focusing on the nuts and bolts of meeting etiquette and district finance. We will also vote to set our quorum and voting threshold. He stated that Mr. Turney will present the funding overview, review our springboard proposal and Transportation Levy. He mentioned in the second meeting we will go over our capital levy and technology levy. Dr. Almy also mentioned he was pleased to be able to hold the meetings in person and that we have taken necessary pre-cautions such as choosing a larger venue to increase social distancing, mask wearing and other protocols.

Dr. Almy then directed the committee to the binders which include the power point presentation, district maps, roster and charter. Information has been divided in sections: Tax information, EP&O Levy, Transportation Levy and Capital Levy. Information has been provided initially in this binder, and then additional materials will be added at each meeting. Dr. Almy noted we have created an email address levy2022@issaquah.wednet.edu to solicit feedback from the community. Community members can also be directed to the district website for committee information including agendas, meeting minutes, and additional materials

AGENDA REVIEW AND MEETING DATES AND TIMES

Dr. Almy reviewed the agenda for tonight’s meeting. He then directed the committee to the parameters of the committee: 

  • Aiming to keep local school taxes stable, each levy package will including funding essential to: Ensure the Issaquah School District has all the resources possible to meet its mission and Ends student learning goals.
  • Safely and efficiently maintain facilities and property according to state and District use standards and schedules.

INTRODUCTIONS OF COMMITTEE AND TECHNICAL TEAM

Deputy Superintendent, Josh Almy introduced himself and had the committee introduce themselves to each other and what community they represent. He also noted three board members were in attendance: Sydne Mullings, Anne Moore and Suzanne Weaver.

Dr. Almy then had the technical team introduce themselves: Martin Turney, Executive Director of Finance and Support Services; Moriah Banasick, Director of Finance; Tom Mullins, Director of Capital Projects; Lisa White and Debbie Rossen who will provide administrative support; Coleen Xaudaro, Director of Transportation; Diana Eggers, Director of Educational Technology; Lesha Engels, Executive Director of Communications. Also, in attendance, but not part of the technical team was Wendy Castleman, Assistant Director of Communications. Absent tonight were Alaina Sivadasan, Executive Director of Equity and Kathy Cropp, Director of IT infrastructure.

GROUP OPERATING NORMS AND ACCESSING COMMUNITY FEEDBACK

Dr. Almy mentioned that the committee is representative of their community and our hope is that they will solicit feedback to bring back to the meetings. Mr. Turney directed the committee to the levy web page on the district website, which also includes the mailbox address for the district levy committee.

DISCUSS AND TAKE ACTION ON QUORUM REQUIREMENTS AND VOTING THRESHOLDS

Dr. Almy reviewed the various representative groups on the committee: School Representatives, Principals, PTSA, VIS, Certificated and Classified Staff, Business Representative, Retired/Senior and Community at Large. These are the 43 voting members of the committee. Technical team and community members that are here to support and listen are not voting members. Dr. Almy discussed how the Committee makes decisions. Historically the committee has chosen a quorum requirement and a threshold requirement for what it takes to change, alter and/or put forward the Springboard proposal.

The committee was then asked to take a short break to determine how it would make further decisions. Dr. Almy noted that historically the group had a 60% quorum requirement but also gave examples of what 70% and 80% would look like.

When the committee reconvened, a motion was made and seconded to adopt a 70% quorum of members present.

The committee then discussed the historical size of the last levy committee. They also mentioned that they felt the work was serious and a higher quorum signaled that. They also recognized a higher quorum, especially in the Covid and busy December environment could prevent them from conducting business. Also mentioned were lower attendance, but higher passage and the ability to communicate to members prior to a meeting if quorum is in jeopardy of being met

A vote was then taken for the motion. By a show of hands, the vote was 35 in favor and 2 not in favor of adopting the 70% quorum of members present.

The committee was then asked to decide what the threshold for the passage of a measure. Dr. Almy stated that historically the threshold has been 75%. The committee took another break to discuss the options.

When the committee reconvened, a motion was made and seconded to adopt a 75% threshold to amend or change the springboard proposals.

A vote was taken on the motion. By a show of hands, the vote was 34 in favor and 3 not in favor of adopting the 75% to amend or change the springboard proposals.

The committee was convened at 6:30 for a 10-minute break

The meeting was reconvened at 6:40.

PRESENTATION ON SCHOOL FUNDING AND THE ROLE OF LEVIES

Mr. Turney then directed the committee to the power point presentation, which is also included in their binders. Mr. Turney then started with a brief explanation of where the money comes from by reviewing Operating Revenue. Budgeted Revenue is $332,404,571. The largest portion come from State Funding (67.1%) which is determined by a series of formula factors including legislatively set base salaries, employee benefits and non-labor allocations. This includes some smaller categorical funding of which our district does not get much money from such as Title 1, special education, free and reduced lunch. The local operations levy provides (15.6%) of the district’s general fund revenues. Local Fees, Tuition, Gifts (12.7%). The largest source in this category is our Before and After School Age Care program which is a very sizable program. Given our socio-economics, we have a small amount of Federal Funds (4.4%). These monies supplement special education programs, Head Start, Title 1 and support free and reduced lunches.

Mr. Turney went on to explain what the expenditures look like. Classroom (63.3%) is the largest as you would expect and want. This includes expenditures for teachers, counselors, librarians, principals, para-professionals, textbooks, staff and curriculum development as well as technology equipment and support and extracurricular programs. Special education is not included in this. Classroom support (12%) would include items needed to run a building such as custodians and office professionals. Special Education (11%). Echo Glen (.7%) is a self-supporting state-run juvenile detention facility. Food Service (2%) is also a self-supporting program. Transportation (3.6%) Lastly, other Grants/Programs (7.4%) goes to support special programs such as Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and before and after school child care.

Mr. Turney shared that there are four ways the district is allowed to supplement using taxing measures: Firstly, Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O) which can only be used for Enrichment. Next, we are allowed to run a Transportation Levy which is used for the purchase of Buses. We are also allowed to run Capital Levies which are used for technology, critical repairs and construction shortfall. Mr. Turney then directed the team to the Capital Levy tab which includes a copy of the e-news from the district informing the committee of the need to ask for an additional $43.9 million to complete High School 4. The committee will discuss this more fully at a later meeting. And lastly, we are able to run Bond Measures for major construction, renovation and modernization. We last ran a bond levy in 2016 which passed with a super majority of 60% + 1. This last category will not be a topic for this committee

EP&O SPRINGBOARD PROPOSAL AND QUESTIONS

Mr. Turney shared that the Springboard currently being proposed is for a four-year cycle. It would cover Years 2023-2026. Historically, a four-year cycle is what we have typically put on the ballot. He stated the past two cycles were two-year levies but now is a good time to return to our normal cadence. Mr. Turney stated that the most recent levies amounts were as follows: 2018 EP&O Levy financed $36.3 million in 2019 and $44.9 million in 2020 and the 2020 EP&O Levy generated $49.5 million in 2021 and $54 million in 2022.

Mr. Turney stated that in the 2021-22 school year that 15.6%, or $51.9 million, of the operating revenue is from local levy dollars. These dollars fund for locally valued enhancements (“enrichments”) beyond basic education. He pointed out that the district’s fiscal year crosses the calendar year of the local levy authority. He stated that enrichments are defined by the state in and listed in RCW 28A.150-276.

In a nutshell the state defines what is allowed. When we have a levy, we ask for permission from OSPI as to what is permitted. Some of the permitted activities: Extracurricular activities, extended school days/year, additional course offerings, early learning programs, additional salary cost attributable to the provision or administration of the allowed enrichment activities and other approved OSPI enrichments, although those have not been defined.

Mr. Turney directed the committee to the document Current Issaquah “Enrichments”. Firstly, is Special Education. The first big number to call out is special education, the state and federal government does not cover the cost. This leaves the burden for us to backfill for what we are legally obligated to provide.

We also have Mental Health Counseling Services, and this funds our partnership with Swedish for 13 mental health specialists. Mr. Turney continued down the list of enrichments starting with Liberty Block Scheduling, 7th period High School Day (Issaquah High and Skyline) Secondary Summer School and numerous other enrichments. One area of note is Nursing as this is severely underfunded. The state funds 3 nursing positions, but we currently staff at 13.5. All of the items on the list are unfunded or underfunded by the state. One example of this is sports fees.

He also mentioned that the total does not align as it is based on previous cost. The promise for the previous two-year levy was for these programs and so they will carry on through spring 2022.

A committee member asked what is the definition of an additional responsibility outside of Basic Education? Mr. Turney answered this could include items like web presence, a non-student day or curriculum night. 

A committee member asked what is an enrichment that would provide additional staff for class size reduction. Mr. Turney stated that the ability to have these extra responsibilities outside of basic education is what allows us to have smaller class size and ratios

A committee member followed up on with a clarifying question on class size stating that class size is large, are we able to get them smaller with this package? Mr. Turney stated that this is the proposal to get ratios lower.

Moving on to the document Levy Authority, Mr. Turney explained that schools are capped on what they can tax. That we are limited by statutes to the lesser of either: Tax Rate - $2.50/1000 of assessed value which for Issaquah in 2022 would calculate at $93 million or $2,742 per student (increased annually by CPI, Consumer Price Index) using FTE of $20,872 which for Issaquah would be $57.2 million. Even if the community wants higher, we cannot do that as the State determines this authority.

Mr. Turney continued the presentation directing the committee to the Springboard Proposal

We are talking about a 4-year springboard. The district is looking forward to future needs. In order to calculate we must use these assumptions when creating our model. We are anticipating students returning back at 2020 levels, and so will use the 2019-20 FTE enrollment baseline. We are factoring in elevated Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the four-year period as compared to historical average. And the springboard also includes assumes a modest assessed value increase during the period.

In 2023, the proposed amount would be $61,000,000, 2024 would be $64,000,000, 2025 would be $67,000,000 and then in 2026 $70,000,000. In his calculations Mr. Turney is using estimates of inflation and enrollment. We are using safe assumptions. If we have returning students and high CPI, then these are the correct rates per 1000. This is one component of what the tax levy package will look like. We will also add transportation, and critical repairs to build what a total package might look like. We will revisit these numbers once we get to the other two.

Dr. Almy explained the committee would go over the springboard for EP&O and then go over the Springboard for transportation, answering any questions the committee may have.

A committee member asked if we are not increasing the tax rate? Mr. Turney answered we are not gaining or losing. The springboard is just continuing. A committee member asked if we considered doing a two-year levy? We can consider that, but there is benefit to getting back to four- year cycle as was past practice.

A committee member asked if the State was providing additional funding for special needs, such as dyslexia. Mr. Turney responded we do backfill dollars out of our enrichments.

TRANSPORTATION LEVY

Mr. Turney then presented the Transportation Levy Springboard. He stated that the Issaquah School District services 110 square miles and transports students over 1.4 million miles a year. Approximately 15,000 students are transported each morning and afternoon. The District currently has 175 small and large busses in its fleet in order to provide this service.

Mr. Turney stated that we operate the department and it takes resources. The State coves 72.5% of the cost of drivers, fuel, tires, etc. The remainder are funded from EP&O Levy Funds. In 2021-22 the District will expend $12.8 million for Transportation Operations. This is the operational piece and we are this is not part of the Transportation Levy.

Mr. Turney continued that the Transportation Levy provides funds for bus purchase. The state provides funds based on a depreciation schedule. Monies are reimbursed on a 13-year replacement cycle. Historically this funds 40% to 60% of the purchase cost. We have created a four-year purchase plan for 64 buses. The estimate would be $9.25 million, of which the state will provide $6.25 million. In order to execute the long-term purchase plan, we need to combine State, Local Bus Levy support and the use of transportation reserve funds. The amount requested for a single year Bus Levy for 2023 will be $3,000,000. The request generates an estimated tax rate of $0.07 per thousand of assessed value in calendar year 2023. Mr. Turney said this is consistent with what we did four years ago. This is what keeps a modernized fleet, one that allow you to keep fuel efficiency and safety.

A committee member asked are we capped on Levy amount for busses as it seems like one of our biggest problem is overcrowding on bus routes? Mr. Turney responded there is no cap.

A committee member followed up with another bus crowding issues, saying while they can appreciate keeping cost low, and acknowledging the bus driver shortage, that maybe but public values purchasing more buses. Mr. Turney responded it is complicated, that the rate of reimbursement from the state is also dependent on an efficient model in which we are running full routes. There is also a constraint on where to park the buses as parking lots are full, in addition to the bus driver shortage. Ms. Xaudaro also confirmed that both transportation locations are at full occupancy

A committee member asked if we are looking at electric busses? Mr. Turney responded that we are following the developments in electric bus technology. At this time a typical gas-powered bus is $111,000, an electric bus is $372,000. In addition, our district has 110 square miles, making range a huge constraint. And currently we do not have a recharging infrastructure or time allocation for recharging. Dr. Almy stated that cost wise this is difficult, but in the future we may able to transition. We are just not there yet. Other districts that have added electric to their fleet, but they are much smaller districts. We are learning from them as cost decreases and technology improves.

A committee member stated that the recently passed Federal infrastructure bill may have some funding mechanisms for these types of investments.

A committee member asked what the average mileage and age of busses we sell from our fleet. Mr. Turney responded when we no longer receive monies from the state depreciation model, around 13 years. Ms. Xaudaro added the busses typically have mileage of 200,000 at time of sale.

A committee member asked if there was any additional parking for buses? Mr. Turney responded, possibly at the new High School 4 property. 

A committee member asked if the reason we were not adding busses was for lack of drivers, or space? Mr. Turney answered it is not space, but drivers. Also, we need to keep our bus routes full, to keep our high efficiency rating with the state. More busses also mean you lose State funding because they are not being fully utilized.

A committee member asked what is the ratio of students per seat. Ms. Xaudaro responded we typically have 3-4 to a seat in elementary, in Middle and High it is 2-3 to a seat.

A committee member asked if these dollars can be used to hire drivers or increase pay. Mr. Turney responded those dollars can come from the State and local levy. However, the bus driver shortage is not unique to Issaquah. Ms. Xaudaro added that we are doing better than surrounding districts. We continually recruiting and hiring, which typically last one month. But Covid has made hiring, and retaining drivers challenging.

A committee member asked what is 100% ridership and how is it calculated? Ms. Xaudaro answered the drivers take attendance each day during the bus run. This is how we get our funding.

A committee member asked where we can get more information on the efficiency rating from the state. Mr. Turney stated he will provide more information to the committee

A committee member asked what is the scope of decisions the committee can make regarding the Bus Levy? Mr. Turney responded that the bus levy is only addressing replenishing the existing bus fleet.

Mr. Turney then read from a document the exact numbers of buses being purchased and retired in 2023

Dr. Almy advised the committee they would get more information on the Bus Levy and provide prior to the next meeting.

 A committee member asked where can we find more information on line items on the EP&O Levy sheet? Mr. Turney asked what would you like to see? We can bring to the next meeting

A committee member asked if the springboard includes any additional course offerings. Dr. Almy explained that courses offered are determined at the building. The addition of the 7-period day at Skyline and Issaquah allowed an expansion of courses as student schedules allowed more than required courses. This was made possible from levy dollars. However, more diverse courses are not a function of EP&O levy funds.

Ms. Engels shared that there was a 27% increase in our CTE programs – programs that include STEM, culinary arts and sports medicine. This gives students more time for exploration beyond requirements.

A committee member asked for additional information regarding the SRO program prior to the next meeting.

A committee member asked how much of the list is up for discussion? Where did the list come from and how can we prioritize. Also what can the committee change and what they cannot? Mr. Turney responded the list came from previous committee review, also reviewed by the superintendent.

A committee member stated they have had previous levy committee experience. Feels that some of these dollars were moved around once we were in a RIF situation.

A committee member asked had questions on Transportation Levy and EP&O; what is the difference in what we get from the state and what it takes to run the department. Asking for more detail on budgets.

Committee is asking for more detail on EP&O, Transportation Levy

A committee member asked when we can get the feedback from the community? Dr. Almy answered we will discuss the cadence and get back to the committee

A committee member asked if the total amount can change? Mr. Turney stated we can’t ask for more but we can change items or amounts.

OVERVIEW AND CLOSURE

The committee was directed to study the materials before the next meeting and return with questions and comments. The technical team will provide additional information as requested from the committee and any community input we receive.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:00pm.