Centralia School District’s Budget Task Force Plans for Levy


In light of the Centralia School District’s double levy failure earlier this year and the financial impacts from the coronavirus, the district has created a budget task force composed of community members, district staff and school board members to provide input and problem solve. 

The main topics of concern for the budget task force are the next levy vote, making recommendations on the 2021-22 budget and the long-term financial health of the school district. The group had their first meeting on Sept. 28 and meets about once a month.

The members of the budget task force include Rick Bonner, Tim Browning, Norm Chapman, Robert Cox, Leah Daarud, Mark Dulin, Bretta Gilmer, Brittany Kindell, Kyle Markstrom, Saundra Schaeler, Andrew Short, Vickie Jackson, Karen St. Clair and Michael Stinkeoway. 

Centralia School District Superintendent Lisa Grant acts as the facilitator at the meetings which are held over Zoom and Lucy Nowicki, a Centralia High School student, participates in the meetings as the student representative.

The group had a meeting on Monday evening where they discussed placing the levy on the ballot for the April 2021 election, building trust with the community and what programs would be funded if the levy passes in the future.

“The task force has helped us see things from varying perspectives and has brought new insights and thoughtfulness on how to approach things. They have asked excellent questions and we are holding meaningful discussions about our district and our district’s budget,” Grant said.

Grant said the budget task force is recommending that the school board run the levy during the April 2021 election. The option to put it on the February 2021 ballot has also been discussed. In order to run the levy in February, the school board would have to make that decision by Dec. 11 — they plan to discuss their options at the Dec. 9 school board meeting.

Kyle Markstrom is a Centralia resident, Centralia High School graduate, manager of a manufacturing company and a budget task force member. He said he’s glad to be a part of the diverse group of people working to strengthen the local schools. 

“Right now with COVID, we are in such a tough position. My eyes have really been opened to the financial goings-on at the school district,” he said. “The community has to understand that even though kids aren’t in school full-time, that doesn’t necessarily save the school district money. There are savings in not bussing kids but it’s more than outweighed by the additional expenses of technology and all of the things that are needed to support learning at home.”

Markstrom said that in order to pass the levy, the budget task force has decided that the focus needs to be on how the levy dollars are going to increase opportunities for students and increase the quality of schools rather than what will be lost if the levy fails. 

Markstrom said that it’s an advantage for businesses and the community at large to have high-quality schools so that the area is more attractive to employees with families and students are better equipped to enter the workforce. 

“Dr. Grant has definitely included the community more to try to get our input and I think that really goes a long way in building trust. Trying to equate levy dollars to student success is going to create a lot more confidence and transparency,” Markstrom said. “I think she has got the ball rolling in a really great direction to start the healing and restoration.”

Norm Chapman, a retired Centralia resident, said that the group is focusing on getting specific about what the levy is going to fund and educating the public on how those programs will benefit students. He said he’s a realist and always “tells it like it is” during the task force meetings.

“Be careful when you complain, you may end up on the committee,” Chapman said. “I’m pretty familiar with all of the woes and mismanagement of funds in the past within the school district.”

He said he started asking the school district questions, learning more about the financial situation of the district and then decided to get involved with the budget task force. 

“We are starting to identify our priorities, saying ‘are we going to spend $1 million to fund athletics or are we going to fund counselors in grade schools, career and technical education, music programs, reduce class sizes?’ There’s quite a list of things the levy funds. We have to ask ‘what are the taxpayers willing to fund?’” Chapman said. 

More information on the Centralia School District’s Budget Task Force can be found on the school’s website at www.centralia.k12.wa.us/Page/4199.