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School Board discusses options after levy failure – schedules public forums

Ferndale School Board emergency special meeting at Vista Middle School library (February 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

FERNDALE, Wash. — Directors with the Ferndale School Board met last night, Monday, February 17th, at the Vista Middle School Library for the first time since learning voters had not approved a $15.4 million per-year 4-year replacement levy proposal.

The meeting began with School Board President Andrew McLaurin reading the following prepared remarks.

District Superintendent Linda Quinn then used the following slideshow to provide an assessment of the District’s current financial situation and what staff and other budget cuts had been identified in the absence of a local levy.

Discussion between the board directors followed Quinn’s presentation.

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Director Melinda Cool suggested the information in Quinn’s presentation should have been shared with the public prior to the vote. Director Lee Ann Riddle said they chose not to since it would be seen as threatening, an accusation made regarding their campaign efforts for the latest bond issue.

Cool also suggested taking the time between now and August to build trust with the public.

Quinn said waiting until August will mean many of the employees who will receive reductions in force (RIF) notifications will be gone, having found stable employment elsewhere. And, in the case of the levy passing in August, the district will need to go through the hiring and certificating processes to fill those gaps as the new school year starts.

Going back to the voters too quickly may result in some “yes” votes becoming “no” votes Cool speculated.

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McLaurin said, while he was not optimistic, he thought there would be some people who will vote “yes” if a $1.50 mil rate is proposed. “I do not find fault in people who are tired of being overtaxed, I get that. But they are still going to feel overtaxed at $1.50 versus $2.50 come August.”

Ultimately it was decided to propose a 2-year levy with a mil rate of $1.50 to the public and to host 2 community forums to collect comments and feedback before next Tuesday’s regular meeting of the school board. McLaurin pointed out, “State funding is such a crap shoot. We have no idea where we will be in 2 years.”

The forums have been scheduled for 10am Saturday, February 22nd, and 6:30pm Monday, February 24th, at locations yet to be determined.

It is expected the forums will begin with a presentation of the information Quinn provided at this meeting and then opening the floor to comments and questions from the public with board directors and district staff available to accept the feedback and answer questions.

The board then entered executive session (closed meeting) to discuss more specifically what employees would be impacted by the proposed cuts. Quinn explained earlier during the open meeting, “I do not want to have this discussion during an open meeting because I do not want these employees to learn about this from social media, a press release or an email.”


  1. K Yvonne Goldsmith February 18, 2020

    Personally, I believe anyone that should be laid off should start at the administration level.

  2. Aron Thompson February 18, 2020

    “…taking the time between now and August to build trust with the public.” You mean REBUILD trust with the public. This couldn’t be simpler: Stop misleading taxpayers with promises that aren’t kept, and quit treating us like open wallets that are bottomless. As households we have to balance reasonable, practical budgets; do the same. Basic math we learn in school…

  3. Matthew L. Aamot February 18, 2020

    Exactly, Yvonne. Pare it down to bare bones.

  4. Gordie Thomas February 18, 2020

    This school board simply doesn’t get hit. What did we just say, no to your Levy! If you do not get what you want from the voters you simply decide to run it again. Enough is enough. Homeowners are not an open wallet for your indiscriminate use. We are already being taxed by the city of Ferndale an Unreasonable amount for water and sewer and then told we can’t use it in the summer. We have to balance our books as well.

  5. Andrew Gustafson February 18, 2020

    I predict that if the district runs the levy again in April at $1.50, it will pass.

    If I’m the FSD board, I’m locking it in for 4 years, not for only 2 years.

    Property taxes will see real dollar increases each year for the next two years, as both the state levy rate goes up, and assessed values go up each year.
    Reselling this levy again in two years,
    after voters have seen their taxes go up each year,
    that’s going to make it even harder to sell $1.50 again in 2022,
    let alone get an increase above $1.50.

    This community has demonstrated a long memory,
    recalling details of the bond promises from 20 years ago.
    They will be able to remember all of these details in 2 short years from now.

    So if all the district is going to get again in 2 years is $1.50,
    they should just lock that rate in for 4 year now, and save us all the cost of a $70k special election in two years.

    • Susan E Hoffman February 19, 2020

      Well My Vote will STILL be a HARD NO!!!! You all WASTE MONEY!!!

  6. Robert Reynolds February 18, 2020

    In order to get a levy or bond issue passed, our school boards and administrators need to be straight and empathetic with the voting public. Many homeowners have seen an increased value of their homes but that value does not translate into extra cash in their pockets – just the opposite as the increase value costs them extra in property taxes, insurance, levies & bonds. etc.. Don’t forget these homes must also be maintained so there are increased expenses in upkeep and replacement of HVAC, roofs, siding, etc. Everything costs more and many are on fixed incomes.

    For those who are not the median household income level in Ferndale is just about $60,000. $700 – $1000 or more in after tax expenses to pay for all of these levies is a significant sum of money. $2.50 does not seem like much if you compare it to a cup of coffee at Wood’s, but a lot of Ferndale residents cannot afford simple everyday luxuries like these. If you are one of the lucky FTE Administrators mentioned in the cuts, making $181,000 or 3 times the mean household income, then $2.50 per $1000 of appraised value seems like a bargain. And are out kids worth the investment? Absolutely. But at some point you have to decide what are the core functions of our educational system and what are the nice to haves.

    Times have changed. I do not know why or how things got so out of whack. When I was in school in my parents property taxes paid for education. I lived in a state with no sales tax. They had an income tax. These 2 taxes were enough to run the government and fund schools. We had sports, band – including band uniforms, dance, drama, debate, and somehow still managed to pay teachers enough to be able to purchase a home, buy food, drive newer model cars, and participate in community activities. Today, with all of our taxes, we cannot seem to fund even the most basic education costs.

    The reality is that many of us feel that our educational budgets are bloated and that we can provide a good education with much less than the maximum allowed by the State. I think we should have considered that we are not Medina, Bellevue, or Mercer Island. This is Whatcom county and we live in Ferndale. We need to be able to make our educational dollars go as far as our citizens have to stretch their dollars.

    I hope the board and administrator can come up with a more realistic budget, albeit with some cuts at a lower than maximum rate allowed and do a better job of explaining to its citizens where the money goes, how and why we need everyone and everything. What are the realistic ramifications of cost cutting? Not just the worst-case-scenario of gloom and doom.

    Last recommendation, speak in plain English if you wish to have people understand. If a teacher is a Certified FEA, then refer to them as teachers and para-educators as such, rather than try to make us decipher your codes for various employee types. Acronyms are great when discussing matters among your peers, but they add confusion. not clarity when discussion with those of us who are just asked to pay the bills.

  7. Andrew McLaurin February 18, 2020

    i would like to clarify that the board has not decided to run another levy at this time. Several possibilities were discussed but we acknowledged that we needed to hear from our community before making any final decisions. As for “starting at the top” the slides presented contain a 20% reduction is administrative staffing, a larger % cut than other areas.

  8. Kay Kammerzell February 18, 2020

    The State needs to change their rules on funding for Running Start students. Currently Washington is the only state in which the school district receives reduced funding for dual enrollment (Running Start) participation. In WA if a student enrolls in Running Start – the school only receives 7% of the usual State funding and the college receives 93%….this is why High Schools here don’t promote their students to participate in Running Start. If this could get changed then more students would participate – and high schools would be able to cut staffing and admin in their budgets.

  9. Gordie Thomas February 18, 2020

    We’ve heard it all before. More tax!

  10. Mark Miller February 18, 2020

    No more taxes, vote any levy down! The Ferndale school district doesn’t know how to run a budget! When will they figure it out that people don’t want to pay more in taxes! People with kids need to move out of here to a school district that is run properly!

  11. Susan E Hoffman February 19, 2020

    Never Have I been So angry at the Tax Increase…Pretty soon I will be paying more taxes than my Mortgage each month, For Schools the taxes are high and I’ve seen people trying to get us to vote in for a Brand new School.You could use the same school and up grade it immensely. I don’t have kids but I pay thru the nose for everyone else’s kids. Also they are going to continue to put it on each ballot until it passes …We voted a HARD NO and they are shoving it down our throats. It will not change “MY NO VOTE” You all WASTE Money! Why the NEW HUGE SIGN at the edge of the parking Lot? How much did that Cost and why would you put it up if you were going to get a New School? Wasteful Spending and then you Idiots try to extract it from the Taxpayers..

    • Sadie HInz February 19, 2020

      Well the sign was donated by Lummi Nation…. Ferndale Schools did not pay for that sign.

      • Susan E Hoffman February 19, 2020

        Well thats good!

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