Budget explanation shows why Marysville doesn’t have the money others do

MARYSVILLE – During the budget hearing at the school board meeting Monday night, finance director Mike Sullivan explained why the Marysville School District doesn’t have as much money for teacher salary increases as some other districts.

He explained Marysville voters approved a tax levy rate of $2.97 per $1,000 valuation of their home and property for 2019. On a $400,000 home, that would be $1,188 a year. However, the state legislature is limiting districts to charge $1.50 per $1,000 valuation. That same house will now bring in $600 a year. Sullivan explained that districts with more-expensive housing that only had to charge $1.74 per $1,000 in 2018, like Northshore for example, are only being cut about 14 percent compared to the 60 percent reduction in Marysville.

So, while the state is giving districts more, local levy amounts vary.

When it’s all said and done, Marysville will end up getting about $1,500 per student, while other districts, such as Northshore, will get closer to $2,500 per student.

For Marysville to be able to provide $2,500 per student, it would need to charge $2.67 per $1,000 valuation, still $1.01 less per $1,000 than taxpayers voted to pay.

At the end of the meeting, directors Chris Nation and Tom Albright said districts in the same situation as Marysville will continue to battle for equality with the legislature.

“The poorer kids are being punished,” Albright said, adding everyone knows it actually costs more to educate poor children. “They’re going about this backwards.”

He continued saying, “Our community voted to support kids, but the legislature won’t let us.”

Nation added that the legislature needs to do what’s right. “We need to educate them about the haves and have nots,” he said. “Our students suffer.”

During the hearing, teacher Becky Roberts asked since the district is getting $20 million more from the state, where is that money going?

Sullivan responded that some of the money is for new teachers to reduce class size, but mainly, “We’re losing the levy funds, so the (state) money is going there. The levy decline is taking its toll.

He added, “For us it’s pretty close to equal” – the amount that will be lost from the levy and the amount the state is providing.

Sullivan said Marysville teachers for years have been “grandfathered” in at a higher pay scale than other teachers statewide. Also, he said smaller districts have been able to give teachers double-digit raises because their staffs have less experience and make less.

Another issue is Marysville keeps receiving less money from the state because each year it loses an average of 100 students who decide to go elsewhere for numerous reasons.

Sullivan said many students are transferring to Lakewood because of its new high school. “We want students here, but our facilities are a challenge for us,” interim superintendent Jason Thompson said. Sullivan said the district actually loses more kids at the middle school level, saying getting into 10th Street is the only acceptable choice for some people in town.

The district also loses a lot of kids in kindergarten because parents take them to schools near their child-care facility.

Audience members questioned how the district can adopt a budget when negotiations are still going on with teachers.

Sullivan said the state mandates all districts have a budget by Aug. 31. There is a contingency fund of $3 million, and the budget also could be amended later if it has to be.

Some of the state money also will go to special education, which has operated at a loss previously. Sullivan’s goal is for it to break even.

Finally, he said the district will have a surplus of $5 million this year, which will be added to the $12 million already saved.

“The reserves will be used up in following years just continuing to do what we’re already doing,” Sullivan said.

In other news, the board decided to stick with Sodexo as its food provider, even though it loses money.

Thompson said food is not a money maker for schools.

“It’s a money loser, but kids need it,” Sullivan said.

He said the district will continue to work with Sodexo on different options. He mentioned something like a “grab and go” meal might be popular. He said having lunch times as early as 10:30 a.m. doesn’t help with sales. Nation suggested surveying parents and kids about why they aren’t buying school food.

Also, during the public comment period, Susan Walters said she was “disgusted” with the board for approving changes at Marysville Getchell and Marysville-Pilchuck high schools without getting all the facts Nation had asked for previously.

She predicted more students will go elsewhere as a result.

“It’s heart-breaking you’re tearing it apart,” she said of Small Learning Communities.

2018-19 Budget Highlights

•General Fund $166,879,445

•Capital Projects Fund $9,455,561

•Transportation Vehicle Fund $1,075,000

•Debt Service Fund $9,173,419

•Associated Student Body Fund $3,225,913

•10,609 students, 753 certificated staff, 428 certified staff

Looking ahead in the four-year budget

•Local taxes will drop $6 million

•State will contribute $3.2 million more