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.
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.
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.”