School districts weigh-in on budget

Washougal, Camas will decide on a proposed plan in August

Local school officials have kept a close watch as the state legislature has established its $38.2 billion budget, including a K-12 education spending plan.

Lawmakers came to an agreement late last week, which includes an additional $1.3 billion for education during the next two years, and a cost of living allowance for employees.

The House passed the plan on a 90-8 vote June 29, just hours after the Senate passed it on a 38-10 vote.

“Details are still being worked out with the passage of the budget,” noted Donna Gregg, business services director for the Camas School District. “However, since the Legislature does not pay for salaries and benefits for all school district employees the Camas School District will continue paying some basic education salaries and benefits using local levy funds.”

The Legislature increased the salary by 3 percent, with 1.8 percent being the cost of living increase and the other 1.2 percent a one-time increase.

The Legislature also reduced K-3 class size, which will gradually be phased in, with priority given to high poverty districts. Additionally, the state will fund all-day kindergarten, beginning in 2016, a year earlier than anticipated under the McCleary decision, which requires the Legislature to fully fund basic education.

However, the Washougal School District has been offering all-day kindergarten at all schools since the fall, using local levy funds. The Camas School District will begin offering full-day kindergarten this fall.

“Since the state was so late in adopting a budget, we will continue to work on the district budget,” Gregg said. “A hearing and request for board approval will take place in August. State law requires we have the budget passed by Aug. 31, and we are on target to do so.”

At a June 23 Washougal School Board meeting, priorities for the 2015-16 budget were noted. They focused on a technology/English language coach position, a special programs teacher position, technology support staffing, additional resource supports to families and district maintenance support.

“Given the recent legislative decisions and state budget, the school district staff will study the outcomes of the legislation and develop a budget in July that will be recommended to the (School Board) in August,” said Superintendent Mike Stromme.