Incomplete information for voters
Schools in SW WA put tax hike votes in “Special” elections that feature school votes only, to boost chances of raising taxes. No voter guide with statements for and against are mailed for special elections, no mention is made of the online voters guide posted at the elections website. Camas School District(CSD) recently mailed a taxpayer funded "Report to Our Community" favorable to levy rate hikes, and another pro levy tax-hike mailer was mailed out by CSD on Jan 22, the same date ballots are mailed out .
In Camas, there are two local tax levy increases on the ballot that are on top of the state school taxes. The state funds bus transportation, plus the local Operations levy includes $ for student access to "flexible transportation options". Combined state and local school taxes account for over half of property tax bills.The Washington Policy Center explains ,
"Most school officials complain they don’t receive enough money. State legislators finished addressing this perceived problem in 2017, following the McCleary education lawsuit, by increasing the state property tax by nearly 50%, and promising to lower local school levy taxes to no more than $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. The idea was that the state would provide more funding for education (and it did) while providing relief at the local level to avoid double taxation. The result was a large cash infusion for school districts. The state tax increased in 2018, but the local cap on property taxes did not take effect until 2019...
Lawmakers decided that year(2018) to break the McCleary promise to taxpayers and raise the local levy cap back up – to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value." full report : K-12 is fully funded, so why are school districts and unions asking for more?
The graph below, posted at the Camas SD website in the fall of 2019, showed the local levy at $1.50 for 2019 and 2020.
* state tax levy rate for 2021 is higher than chart, $2.94
For decades, CSD voters decided at the ballot box whether to raise the Local Operations levy or not. The unprecedented vote by the school board to raise the levy rate without asking the community is appalling. This writer did object to the proposed rate hike in person at school board meetings prior to the board vote. The only response was that one school board member reprimanded me for posting the CSD rate charts above at a website to inform the public.
Emboldened, the Camas School board recently voted to raise the Local Operations Levy rate again, to the new maximum allowed, $2.50 APVfor 2021, at the Nov. 9, 2020 School board meeting, view minutes, Resolution 20-07 – Levy Certification
"we have prepared our district tax certification that targets an EP&O levy rate of $2.50 per $1,000"
FACT CHECK on CSD levy mailer page 6,
Notice the tax rate chart does not include state taxes as the former tax charts shown above did, hiding the full school tax burden. Combined state and local K-12 school taxes account for over half of our property tax bills.
The proposed Ed Programs & Operations Local Levy is $2.50, higher than 2019 and 2020 rates.
Local levy Ed programs and enrichment were well funded at the $1.50 rate cap in 2019.
The proposed Tech/Capital levy rate is $.54, nearly double the current rate of ~$.28 years 2019-21 which is clearly a rate increase.
The Technology/Capital levy is already excess taxation at $.28 per $1000 APV
Est. rate Est Tax Est rate Est. Tax
Year Operations Collections Tech/Cap Collections
2022 $2.50 $17,180,000 $.54 $3,710,000
2023 $2.50 $17,690,000 $.54 $3,820,000
2024 $2.50 $18,220,000 $.54 $3,940,000
For Analysis of Camas school tax increases, CSD local levies, and curriculum changes, see link
Detailed Revenue Data shows in 2019-20 ~ 7234 students attended school
Revenue in all funds per student for 2019-20 approx. $18,414
January 2021, student enrollment has decreased approx 6.4% from January 2020, 464 fewer students.
These 2 local levies generously funded extracurricular and Ed programs for more students in 2019, and the promised 2019 Local Levy cap of $1.50 should be honored. The currrent Tech/Capital levy rates are generous. There is no need to double the rates, for declining student enrollment.
Estimated levy rates could increase if property values decrease, or if more businesses fail or move away.
Reserve funds: Fund Balances are high
The district set a lofty goal of putting 10% of budgeted expenditures into reserves as the annual fund balance target. In the past, and in other school districts , 5% have been in reserves. The Camas District reports 5 different funds all with reserve balances at a total of approximately $ 57,278,091 in reserve in 2019-20. (click for link)
The 5 funds shown: General , Capital Projects , Debt Service , Transportation , ASB .
CSD receives transportation tax dollars from the state, and also the EP & O local levy for "flexible transportation options". How much of the local levy is spent on transportation, and what are the "flexible options"?. Please note, the district uses a chart that "does not yet factor savings/costs due to COVID." What are the savings in every area including transportation due to COVID closures? The Camas School District is eligible for — $333,095 in CARES Covid relief funds.
Many of the programs funded by the local levy were halted when schools were closed in the spring of 2020. Many programs were not resumed, or were offered at a much lower level in the fall. Meanwhile, the district collected the full local Operations levy for 2020, including funds for local transportation, even though local levy student programs were greatly reduced. Were these savings put in reserves? Since reserves are set aside in part for unforeseen circumstances, the district can use some of these hefty reserve funds instead of raising taxes during this difficult time of job loss, and business revenue loss and closures under harsh regulations and conditions.
Salaries significantly increasing
High salary administrative positions grow, as do administrative raises. Teacher demands for double digit pay increases under threat of strike are unfair. Although teacher strikes are illegal in WA, very generous compensation raises after a threatened strike have been granted to Camas teachers.
Salaries and benefits - 88%, Materials, Supplies, Other- 11%, Other 1 %
Details on salaries before benefits reported here. http://fiscal.wa.gov/DVK12Salaries.aspx
Instructional hours decreasing
Parents have formed a group to Open Camas Schools, including a Facebook page to urge the district to offer in person learning in taxpayer purchased and supported schools. It's especially difficult for parents to work, and teach their children too. Some Camas school educators prefer not to offer in person instruction, and have shared their thoughts on it. Parents advocating to open schools point out that CSD currently offers in person childcare for pay at the Jack, Will, and Rob Center and the Zellerbach Administration Center for some children ages pre-K- 6th Grade. Area private schools have been open to students since September, 2020.
at either location.
The minimum requirements for instructional time in WA are circumvented by rule changes and waivers, including this remote school year. According to a Washington Policy Center report,
"Lawmakers require that public school officials provide every student with at least 180 days of schooling and at least 1,000 hours of instruction each year, and they provide about $17 billion a year to pay for it.
When the governor’s COVID-19 shut-down order closed the schools in March, state superintendent Chris Reykdal (OSPI) and the State Board of Education used administrative orders to cut the number of instructional hours for children while providing closed schools with full funding. The weaker rule lets school officials count student homework time as “instructional hours,” even though students are receiving no help from teachers. "
This report details instruction cuts . Teachers get full pay, while students receive part-time online learning
What counts as instruction in person? Recess, class changes, parent teacher conferences. Comparing the Camas School calendar from 2004-2018, instruction hours decreased. On Wednesdays, elementary school is only half day, from 9 a.m.-1:10 p.m., which includes lunch. Many years ago, the Camas School Board obtained a special waiver to allow half days to count as full days, and instructional hours have been decreasing since then. Starting in 2014, elementary students are released early for parent-teacher conferences instead of after-school conferences. Upper grades enjoyed 40 late starts in the 2018-19, up from 36 in 2004. Transportation costs are the same for short days as for longer days.RCW 28A.150.220 Basic education—Minimum instructional requirements
Many in community object to the new Comprehensive Sexual Education ( CSE) curriculum :
SW WA Citizens have reviewed CSE curricula, and question whether it is truly age appropriate or healthy. The Op-ed articles below review community concerns.
Operations Levy includes funding for school nurses, who in turn can make health referrals to students.
School health staff can refer a minor student for outside services such as a surgical abortion, at an outside facility, without parental notice or consent. For more information about CSE curriculum, and health services offered to minor school students, see link to Parents’ Rights In Education
Camas School Board members and Superintendent call for faster vaccinations for K-12 Staff
Other School Options
The Camas Connect Academy is designed as a way for students to engage in the classroom without having to physically go to a school building on a regular basis. This option is available for students who live in the boundaries of the Camas School District. Other online K-12 public schools, with no tuition expense may also be options.
Cascadia Tech Academy offers courses designed to help students learn the technical skills and abilities to become valuable employees. Sophomores and juniors in high schools, home school, private school, and GED students may apply.
Running Start allows high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits while completing their high school education—saving students money while advancing their education.
Private School (online or in-person) or homeschool students have little or no access to funding for education, yet families are forced to pay school taxes on top of student education expenses. The K-12 Education Scholarship Program – House Bill 1215, would give parents the ability to choose the learning environment that best meets their children's needs. The program would provide $7,000 per student to be used for costs related to private school or home-school instruction.
Senate Bill 5257 would exempt property owners from state and local school levies if their students are home-schooled or attend a private school.
*website by Margaret Tweet with input from residents and businesses facing harsh restrictions and economic hardship