Mount Vernon School Board passes district’s budget

August 17, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon School Board adopted Wednesday the school district’s 2018-2019 budget.

The district is expecting about $106.6 million in revenue and slightly less than $106 million in expenditures, Finance Director Jennifer Larson said.

The budget includes about $4.5 million in salary and benefit increases.

The district has about $6 million in reserves and is expecting to end the year with about $6.6 million in reserves.

However, like most other districts in Skagit County, newly required four-year budget projections show the district using some of those reserves in the next few years.

In an effort to comply with a mandate from the state Supreme Court to adequately fund “basic education,” the state this year increased the amount it will collect in property taxes. Those funds are set to be distributed to the state’s 295 school districts.

In exchange, districts are now restricted in what they can collect locally in property taxes.

In many cases — including in all Skagit County districts — the increase in state funding does not make up for the loss of local levy dollars.

“Although many of us thought that the McCleary fix was going to mean more funds for the Mount Vernon School District, in fact it turns out that it doesn’t mean more money,” Board President Rob Coffey said at an early August budget hearing. “There’s a blip that it produces by giving us an increase in state funds …. but that’s purely a blip. There’s no real gain in funding for our school district.”

In Mount Vernon, that means the district would face a deficit of about $850,000 for the 2020-2021 school year and about $5 million the year after that.

“We’ve heard the term ‘there are some winners and some losers,’” Larson said. “Well, we’ve confirmed what category we’re in.”

Those are, however, projections, Larson said. If nothing changes in the state funding model by then, the district would have to find ways to balance its budget.

At Wednesday’s meeting were representatives of the district’s teachers union and many community members. About 19 spoke at the meeting, asking the board to reach a contract settlement that would give raises to teachers.