Battle Ground schools' levy attempt raises some questions

Some constituents concerned about district's finances

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

Battle Ground Public Schools levy vote

Ballots due: April 23

Current levy

2013: $22.6 million, which costs taxpayers an estimated $4.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of a $200,000 home, this amounts to $70.83 per month, or $850 annually.

Levy request

2014: $24.4 million, which would cost taxpayers an estimated $4.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of a $200,000 home, this will cost $74.83 per month ($4 more per month than the 2013 levy) or $898 per year ($48 more per year than the 2013 levy).

2015: $25.4 million, for an estimated $4.52 per $1,000.

2016: $26.3 million, for an estimated $4.51 per $1,000.

2017: $27.3 million, for an estimated $4.46 per $1,000.

Central administration costs

Clark County school districts, lowest percentage to greatest (spending per student, percentage)

Evergreen: $437, 5 percent

Vancouver: $501, 5 percent

Hockinson: $471, 6 percent

Battle Ground: $517, 6 percent

La Center: $551, 7 percent.

Camas: $556, 7 percent.

Ridgefield: $621, 8 percent.

Washougal: $780, 8 percent.

Statewide: $621, 6 percent.

Source: Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

Superintendent salaries

School district superintendent total salaries in Clark County, highest to lowest

Vancouver: $214,000.

Evergreen: $196,362.

Battle Ground: $167,192.

Camas: $152,335.

Ridgefield: $131,016.

La Center: $129,459.

Washougal: $128,000.

Hockinson: $122,500.

Source

About eight weeks after voters failed to approve Battle Ground Public Schools ' four-year maintenance and operations levy, the district is again asking voters to replace a levy that expires in December. Ballots were mailed last week and are due April 23.

Of the 41 districts across the state that brought M&O levies to voters on Feb. 12, Battle Ground's was the lone failure. However, rejecting a levy is not new for the district, which has voted down levies 14 times since 1983. The last double-levy failure was in 2006.

Currently, the state does not fully fund K-12 education, but under the McCleary decision is mandated to do so by 2018. The district's 2012-13 operating budget is $120.8 million. Battle Ground's current levy pays for 18 to 20 percent of the budget; the new levy request is for 22 percent of the budget.

The current levy pays for about 90 of the district's approximately 700 classroom teachers, school security, assistant principals in every school, teacher librarians, school nurses, reading and math intervention specialists, maintenance workers and some district administrators.

After the levy failed in February, more than 300 people attended a seven-hour school board meeting to look at the budget and see how the district spends its money. During the meeting, some voters asked the district to trim the budget, just as many families must do during the recession.

But the school board held firm with its original budget request, the result of a day-long planning session attended by citizens and district officials in December.

Since then, questions have continued about the district's finances, including:

• Central administration costs: Battle Ground spends 6 percent of its total expenditures on central administration. That's the state average. Compared with other districts in the county, Battle Ground spends a smaller percentage on central administration than La Center and Camas (7 percent each) and Ridgefield and Washougal (8 percent each). At $517 per student for central administration spending, Battle Ground's per-pupil spending is $104 less than the state average.

• Superintendent's salary: Battle Ground is the third-largest school district in Clark County and Superintendent Shonny Bria has the third-highest superintendent's salary in the county. Bria's total salary -- $167,192 -- is less than Vancouver's Steven Webb, $214,000, and Evergreen's John Deeder, $196,362.

Biggest cost

By far the biggest cost for the district is teacher pay.

In Washington, teacher salaries are based on a state salary schedule, and then adjusted in local contract negotiations between each district and the teachers' union. The state salary schedule ranges from $33,401 to $62,955 annually, depending on a teacher's education and years of classroom experience.

In June 2011, the state cut pay for K-12 teachers by 1.9 percent and for school administrative staff by 3 percent over two years, saving $179 million. A 1.9 percent pay cut averages about $1,000 annually for the teachers.

Teachers are paid for 180 eight-hour school days, plus some additional work time. The additional time includes three startup days at the beginning of the year and 12 Time Responsibility and Innovation days.

The 12 days are divided into half-hour increments, one per school day.

"This gives us one-half hour per school day to attend meetings, collaborate, grade papers, do report cards, contact parents, prepare for the next day and clean up from the current day," said Ellen Joslin, president of the Battle Ground Education Association.

For these additional 12 days, teachers receive an additional $2,226 to $4,197 per year.

Teachers may also receive overload pay if their class sizes exceed the state's limit: 25 students for grades K-4; 28 for grades 5-8; and no more than 150 students per day for grades 9-12. Overload pay is $6.66 per day per student, or 45 minutes of assistant time per student.

Also, longevity pay is given to teachers at the top tier, who have earned a master's degree plus 90 credits or a doctoral degree with at least 16 years' experience. For those in this top tier with 17-21 years' experience, they receive one day of longevity pay. Those with 22-26 years' experience receive two days of pay; 27 to 31 years, three days; and 32 years or more, four days of longevity pay.

Planning prep time included in teacher pay is 40 minutes per day at the primary level, 45 minutes a day at middle schools and 50 to 55 minutes a day at the high schools.

Teachers in the district are allotted $200 per year for classroom supplies. Anything beyond that comes from the teacher's wallet, Joslin said.

Teachers receive 12 days of sick leave. The state pays $762 a month toward medical insurance. Teachers pay the remainder out of pocket.

Joslin's own base pay is $62,995. With three star-up days, for which she is paid $1,049.25, plus 12 Time Responsibility and Innovation Days for which she is paid $4,197, Joslin's gross annual salary is $68,241.25.

Supplemental contracts

Some district employees have supplemental contracts in order to complete required tasks not covered within the regular school year. For instance, high school counselors are paid for 20 days in August in order to schedule students for the coming school year. Special education teachers work an additional five days per year to write Individualized Education Programs, commonly called IEPs, for each student. School psychologists work an additional 15 days to write special education reports and to do IEP work.

In order to inventory textbooks, teacher-librarians in K-8 schools work an additional six days, while their high school counterparts work an additional nine days. Shop teachers have an additional two days for machine maintenance. School nurses work an additional five days to get emergency plans in place. The district offers no extended days for classroom teachers.

Classroom teachers who serve as grade-level chairs can earn between $1,319 to $2,486 per year, depending on their place on the salary schedule and the number of teachers on their team.

Extracurricular activity advisers and coaches sign separate contracts.

The state requires teachers to earn an additional 15 college credits every five years until retirement. Unlike some Clark County school districts, Battle Ground does not reimburse teachers for continuing education expenses including tuition.

Ballots are due April 23. If the levy fails a second time, the district can't bring another levy before voters until February 2014.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com.

Battle Ground Levy Results Feb 2013