Woodland Public Schools’ second attempt to pass a levy to replace an expiring property tax is failing by a slim margin of only a few dozen votes as of the latest numbers.
As of press deadline, the ballot measure had 1,990 votes in favor and 2,022 against the measure. During the first count of ballots there was a 37-vote difference, which shrunk slightly to 32 votes through subsequent counts. The measure needs a simple majority in order to pass.
On Monday, May 1, there were an estimated 80 ballots left to count in Clark County for the special election, which also featured two measures in the Washougal School District. In Cowlitz County, the elections website stated they aren’t expecting any more ballots to come in. Both counties are expected to conduct their next counts by the end of the day on May 4 and the election will be certified on May 5.
If approved, the levy would collect $5.9 million in 2024, $6.25 million in 2025 and $6.625 million in 2026. The levy rate is estimated to be about $1.91 per $1,000 of assessed value, lower than the current rate of $2.10 per $1,000.
As of last week, WPS Superintendent Michael Green said the most disappointing aspect of the situation is the impact the lack of funding will have on students.
“Kids are going to miss out on opportunities that they had historically in this district,” Green said.
The first effort to pass the levy in February ultimately failed with only 43.8% approval. Following that result, the Woodland School Board identified $3 million in cuts that would take place next year if the levy failed.
The cuts cover a wide range of aspects of the district. Expansions of the district’s dual language and speech language pathology programs will be halted, stated a release from the district at the time the potential cuts were announced. WPS would also no longer offer summer school for its K-8 students, which would require students to repeat classes or whole grades in order to recover lost credits.
The cuts would eliminate the district’s Jump Start kindergarten program which started last year, the release stated. The district would also have to raise fees for its before and after school child care program, which is subsidized by the levy.
The cuts would result in a pause in the replacement or updates to school curriculum, the release stated. The district will also halt any new technology purchases and would eliminate one-to-one Chromebooks for elementary school students.
Food service staff would be reduced and district-level secretarial staff, school-based classified staff, elementary school deans of students, the assistant superintendent position, an on-site translator and secondary-level teaching coaches would be eliminated under the proposed cuts.
The cuts would also reduce maintenance and custodial staff, the release stated. Classroom cleaning would occur on a weekly basis at most, which would put some custodial duties on teachers and other staff.
Planned school security improvements, the replacement of Woodland Middle School’s roof and improvements to Fifth Street in front of the school will be halted, according to the release.
Without the levy, WPS plans to cut high school sports that aren’t at the varsity or junior varsity level, the release stated. The district would also no longer provide transportation for athletics and will reduce the district athletic director position to part time.
Though some high school athletic opportunities will remain, WPS’ organized sports for middle school will be eliminated, the release stated.
The $3 million in cuts won’t be the end of reductions if the district can’t find a replacement for the funding.
Since the school’s budget year does not run concurrent with the calendar year, the half-year of levy funding received in 2023 will be distributed throughout the 2023-2024 school year, stated the release.
“It’s a real disappointment to me, personally and professionally, that we haven’t done what we need to build the faith in the community to continue to support our schools,” Green said.
Though the areas that will be cut are identified, the WPS board will need to take formal votes on the reductions necessary for the budget for the next school year.
“Cutting 6% out of your budget is pretty significant,” Green said.
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