Oak Harbor School District completes levy commitments

When the Oak Harbor Public Schools District asked voters to approve a levy in 2013, they did so promising to meet certain needs of the district.

When the Oak Harbor Public Schools District asked voters to approve a levy in 2013, they did so promising to meet certain needs of the district.

Two years later, every one of those needs has been met, school leaders say.

Many of those needs were long-term and will continue to be funded. Those include increased staffing, after-school-activity buses and restoration of positions for assistant coaches and librarians.

But other commitments the district made, such as the $600,000 curriculum replacement and $150,000 supplies and equipment costs, won’t necessarily continue.

During the school board’s Feb. 23 meeting, board members discussed potential budget decisions for the 2015-16 school year.

“At the time that all these things are implemented and all these new staff members have been acquired and all in place, and all of these holes have been filled, is now a good time to revisit each of the buildings and pull all of the administrators together to make sure … that everything is smoothed out as it needs to be?” board member Christine Abbott asked.

Abbott said she wasn’t suggesting “getting rid” of anything, or even necessarily changing anything, but that the board should make sure “all of the holes were plugged the first time, the right way.”

“I can’t imagine an administrator saying we have way too many people, please take some,” Abbott said. “But we might hear louder needs somewhere else.”

An example would be if one school ended up overstaffed because not as many students were there, then another school might not have enough staff for the number of students.

Board Chairman Peter Hunt said that, if one area has a higher need, with “a tremendous amount of data supporting it,” then they might reapportion some of the money to fill that need.

Superintendent Lance Gibbon said that, in some cases, they’ve already looked at moving resources to meet those less-supported needs, while keeping the general purpose of the fund in the same category.

“They still fit in the same bucket on (paper) but … it’s been reinvented to meet what the needs are,” Gibbon said. “The buckets are going to remain the same, but how it’s used is going to be different.”

Another part of their consideration is the McCleary Decision, a court case that determined school districts aren’t being funded appropriately under the Washington State Constitution, meaning the state will be giving districts more funding. However, some of the funds that the district will receive for the 2015-16 school year may be allocated for only specific purposes, so the board agreed not to “make any guesses or assumptions or spend the money before it comes,” Gibbon said.

“We certainly have support needs in a number of our programs,” Gibbon said, mentioning mental health counseling, teacher compensation and more.