Battle Ground School Board approves budget after levy success

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The recently approved levy for Battle Ground Public Schools has enabled the school district to ease some of its belt-tightening measures made in August as it allowed for an increase in spending by about $5.8 million.

During its Jan. 10 board meeting, the BGPS Board of Directors unanimously approved a budget extension for the 2021-2022 school year. The extension raises budget expenditures from about $197 million to roughly $203 million.

Chief impacts of the extension include a reduction in the amount of reserve funds the district has to use this school year, and an increase in funding for services the district needs to function.

BGPS Chief Financial Officer Michelle Scott said the move is aimed at “just restoring to normal levels.”

In a presentation before the board, Scott said the initial budget approved in August did not include any levy funds for the 2022 portion of the school year. To make up for the missing levy funds, “a significant amount of fund balance,” and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds were used, as the general building and department budgets were reduced.

During the November election, voters approved a replacement educational programs and operations levy, which passed with 54.5% in favor of the measure. The ballot measure was the second time the district sought to pass a replacement levy in 2021. The levy failed during a previous attempt in February after it garnered only about 47.6% of ballots in favor.

Scott said the district can focus its ESSER funds on the district’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response since the levy was approved. The levy allows the district to bring department and building budgets back to “normal” levels, she said. It also allowed for the return of middle school sports earlier this year.

The budget that did not include the levy used $16.2 million of the district’s fund balance reserve, leaving about $14.9 million in the fund. Scott said the extension still uses about $6.1 million of the fund balance.

Of the $5.8 million in additional spending, the largest increase in the extension included building budgets and carryover restoration at about $2.6 million, followed by technology at about $1 million. Middle school sports accounted for about $597,000 of the budget extension.

The estimated rate of the levy is $1.99 per $1,000 of assessed value on properties, lower than 2021’s $2.32 per $1,000 of assessed value. The new levy will cost residents about $123 less on their annual property tax on a $450,000 home.

The levy will collect $26.75 million in 2022, $28.2 million in 2023, $29.65 million in 2024 and $31.1 million in 2025.

Scott said since the district has an approved levy it can receive an additional $1 million through Local Effort Assistance Revenue from the state. She explained the revenue was based on a minimum to collect per student. The state provides assistance as long as the district has a levy over a certain amount.

BGPS Superintendent Denny Waters said the district takes into account the approximate amount of Local Effort Assistance Revenue when it approaches a levy proposal. Waters pointed out that for the first time in decades, the district was able to meet policy goals for maintaining fund balance reserves.

“Which is good, because it does improve our bond rates … our credit rating with the banks, a whole bunch of things it’s good for,” he said.

BGPS Board President Mark Watrin said it has been good to see the impacts the voters’ approval had on the district’s operations for the rest of the year.

“I know that meant doing two budgets instead of one last August, and it’s nice to see where it ends up,” Watrin said.

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