OMAK — Voters in several Okanogan Country school districts will be asked Feb. 11 to decide on educational programs and operations levy requests and, in two districts, technology-related capital levies.
Ballots were scheduled to be mailed late last week to registered voters. Completed ballots must be returned or postmarked on or before Feb. 11 to be counted.
All need a simple majority to pass.
A replacement levy request is before Brewster School District voters.
“The levy pays for most of the things we think of as providing a well-rounded education,” said Superintendent Eric Driessen.
Among the programs supported by the levy are physical education, music, art, counselors, nursing, transportation/custodial positions, curriculum, school safety, technology, maintenance, communication, librarian, parent/student liaison, athletics, clubs, college classes and support staff.
The district is seeking approval of a four-year levy, with $932,940 to be collected in 2021, $1,144,955 in 2022, $1,384,679 in 2023 and $1,488,530 in 2024. Levy rates range from an estimated $1.75 in 2021 to $2.25 in 2024, meaning the owner of property assessed at $100,000 would pay an estimated $175 in 2021, $200 in 2022 and $225 in 2023 and 2024.
“This year our levy will look different than the past,” said Driessen. “The Legislature initiated a ‘bait and switch,’ or as they call it, a levy swap. They essentially took half of our local levy money and said they would redistribute it.
“In doing so, they did not distribute it fairly and the distribution has requirements that do not allow for flexibility in spending. As a result of legislative decisions, local communities were left with less resources to fund all of the programs” on the levy list.
The result is the Brewster district will suffer a decrease in revenue. In this budget year, 2019-20, that means a loss of almost $500,000, Driessen said.
“Through eliminating some positions, reducing professional development and using reserves, we are able to get through this budget year,” he said. “As it stands for next school year, there will need to be additional reductions to the budget. While reductions this year did not negatively affect programs, this next reduction will.”
He said district residents were surveyed, with most respondents preferring a four-year levy.
Despite all the changes, Driessen said the estimated levy rate has dropped. In 2014, the collection rate was $3.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and in 2018 it was $2.42.
If the measure passes, the district expects to receive $672,176 in levy equalization funds from the state. If it fails, the state match would go away.
“We can see if the levy doesn’t pass, the district will have a $1.5 million reduction from the budget,” said Driessen.
“Our community has been very supportive of our kids and educational programs,” he said. “This has been seen over and over in passing levies and, most recently, a bond (issue). The levy proposal is enough to maintain current programs and plan for future costs.
“The district is not trying to make money, but only to provide the best education for our students and hopefully make our community proud of the work we do,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are in a situation where we must make a decision to continue to support the educational programs we have or reduce the quality of education we provide.”
Voters in the Bridgeport School District will have the opportunity Feb. 11 to decide on a four-year replacement educational programs and operations levy request.
The proposed levy, previously known as a maintenance and operations levy, seeks $280,674 for collection in 2021, $297,515 in 2022. Collection in 2023 and 2024 would be around $280,000 per year.
“This is a replacement levy – collection will not begin until the current levy ends in 2020,” said Superintendent Scott Sattler. “The levy amount collected is different each year as it is based on $1.60 per ($1,000 of) assessed value and remains at $1.60 throughout the four years of collection.”
Property assessed at $100,000 would be taxed approximately $160 per year throughout the four-year levy.
Sattler said the board chose a four-year measure for two main reasons: Each time a levy is run it costs the district more than $6,000 in ballot costs, and to assure voters that the rate will not be increased for collection throughout the four years.
If the measure is approved, the district would receive $990,000 per year in state levy equalization money. If the request fails, the district would not get levy equalization money.
Money generated by the levy would pay for educational programs and operational expenses not funded by the state, including College in the High School, music, athletics, staffing and basic maintenance.
“Bridgeport School District has a proud tradition of supporting its school district,” said Sattler. “In February 2016, voters approved the current (maintenance and operations) levy that collects at $1.70 per thousand (dollars) assessed value.”
Lake Chelan School District is proposing a two-year educational programs and operations replacement levy and a four-year educational technology.
The educational programs and operations replacement levy would generate about $3.5 million per year in 2021 and 2022, extending a four-year levy that voters approved in 2016.
The other ballot measure would extend the current levy through 2024. The tech levy is estimated to generate $250,000 per year.
The current estimated cost for the two levies in 2021 is $1.34 for every $1,000 of assessed value, with $1.25 from the educational programs and operations replacement levy and 8.4 cents from the tech levy.
“If accepted, the levy will replace the current maintenance and operations levy and technology level,” said Superintendent Barry P. DePaoli said. “The four-year technology replacement levy sustains the one-to-one computer initiative for students as well as supporting the replacement of aging computers, printers, servers and document cameras along with staff training.”
“In addition, these levy dollars assist in offering online courses and opportunities, school technician specialists to maintain the network, upgrades of wireless Internet capabilities, safety and efficiency software for school bus operations, continued upgrades to district websites and social media platforms, emergency alert systems, and other e-communications. Again, this is not a new tax, it extends the current technology levy through 2024.”
Voters in the Keller School District will have the opportunity Feb. 11 to decide on a two-year replacement educational programs and operations levy request.
The proposed levy, previously known as a maintenance and operations levy, seeks $18,325 for collection in 2021, $18,325 in 2022.
The estimated levy rate would be $1.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
In the Methow Valley district, the educational programs and operations, and capital projects-technology levies represent around 22 percent of the district’s annual operating budget. Current levies will expire at the end of 2020.
The district is seeking voter approval of two four-year measures, an educational programs and operations levy and a technology levy.
The first would support lower class sizes, instructional materials and classroom supplies, teaching and learning, community-based internships, music, arts, health and fitness, world languages, counseling, special education services, field trips, internships, professional development, maintenance of facilities and transportation fleet, and early childhood education and after-school child care.
Under the technology levy, the district would use technology in support of research, communication and self-management skills; support media and library specialist services; STEAM courses; adaptive technology; Americans with Disabilities Act entry and exit ways; safe and responsible use of social media; ongoing, job-embedded professional development; ongoing maintenance of computer infrastructure, and upgraded safety and security systems, including 911-compatible phones, security cameras and an electronic door-locking system.
The district seeks $2 million for collection over four years for the educational programs and operations levy. The estimated collection rate is $1.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $146 per year for the owner of property assessed at $100,000.
The technology levy would generate $3.4 million spread over four years, with an estimated levy rate of $1.16 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That translates to $116 per year for the owner of property assessed at $100,000.
The district is seeking approval of a four-year educational programs and operations levy request for collection in 2021-2024. The estimated levy rate is $1.75 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning the owner of property valued at $100,000 would pay $175 per year.
District officials have earmarked 10 percent for classroom instruction, 9 percent for instructional technology, 7 percent for curriculum, 10 percent for support programs and 64 percent for extra-curricular activities, including 20 athletic and more than 25 non-athletic programs.
“The funds generated by this levy (would) support a large number of school district functions that the State of Washington endorses, but the Legislature does not fund,” according to district Superintendent Erik Swanson. “Operations levies are run in every school district in the state and are seen by the Legislature as the place where local communities control what they see as priorities.”
The measure would replace the current maintenance and operations levy that expires Dec. 31, 2020. Its collection rate is $1.49.
If the measure passes, the district would receive around $7.89 million in state levy equalization money the first year. If it fails, the equalization money would go away.
In the Oroville School District, residents will be asked to vote on a replacement education programs and operations levy at a rate of $2.32 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The levy, if approved, is expected to collect $1,229,660 in both 2021 and 2022.
The school district runs a levy every two years, and funds are used to sustain the current direction, operations and programs.
“The Oroville School District is running only one levy at $2.32 per $1,000; we are not running an additional capital, enhancement and/or a technology levy,” said Oroville Superintendent Jeff Hardesty, adding that all the money collected stays in Oroville schools and is used to fund current needs.
“The district and the children we serve have benefited from over 30 years of being fiscally responsible and for asking voters to approve a levy for what we truly need in order to maintain programs,” said Hardesty.
Thirty-five percent of the levy funds will be directed to Support Programs and Health, Safety and Security Programs. Support Programs include maintenance of the buildings and grounds; materials for repair; plumbing replacement; energy conservation and the lunch and breakfast and beyond reimbursement. Health, Safety and Security programs include nurse and health supplies, security cameras, automatic door locks, emergency communications and security upgrades.
Thirty-one percent of levy funds go towards instruction and curriculum career development, including curriculum materials, classroom supplies, substitutes, desk and chair replacements, copy machines, library books, and music program supplies and performances, art supplies and vocational program supplies.
Funds supporting career development are used for curriculum purchases, college credit bearing classes, career fairs, K-6 career skills field trips, and career explorations such as job shadowing, internships and apprentices.
Twenty-six percent of levy funds support extra-curricular and co-curricular programs such as high school and junior high school athletic activities and FFA, FBLA, band and choir, music programs, and trap club events as well as funding for coaches, club advisors, supervisors and transportation to events.
Eight percent of funds continue to support technology programs including mobile computer labs, laptops and desktop computers, Internet fees, software, repairs and a technology technician position.
“Of course, maintaining our facilities is a very high priority, and the funds for doing so come directly from the levy,” said Hardesty. “We continually work to improve our facilities, both on the inside and the outside, in a way that keeps our schools fully functional as well as safe and secure. For instance, due to careful planning and budgeting the district recently completed a half-million-dollar roof repair on the secondary building over a period of five years. This work extended the building’s roof-life for approximately another 25 years.”
Oroville School District serves a community of 575 students in two buildings, with 45 certified staff, 39 classified employees; and a support staff of para-educators, bus drivers, a nurse, food service workers, secretaries and maintenance, custodians and grounds workers.
“Levies provide communities an opportunity to help set educational priorities for our children,” said Hardesty. “The Oroville community has consistently supported school levies over the past 30 years.”
Residents within the Tonasket School District will be asked to consider a replacement educational programs and operational levy.
This levy replaces the expiring one approved by voters in 2018, and will provide local funding for Tonasket schools over the next two years, beginning January 2021.
The new levy is asking for $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The state lifted the lid capping the amount school districts could collect from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000.
“This levy is just 10 cents more than previous years, as the school board is cognizant of the local rural economy and didn’t want to raise it too much,” said Tonasket School District Superintendent Steve McCullough.
Tonasket is eligible for approximately $1,000,000 per year of state levy equalization dollars, but will not receive those unless the local levy is passed.
For the 2019-20 school year, Tonasket School District is estimated to collect $1,018,579 in levy equalization funds.
If the 2020 Replacement levy fails, Tonasket School District’s operating budget will need to be reduced by approximately two million dollars.
Levy funds, which make up 12 percent of the school district’s budget along with state levy equalization dollars, will be used to maintain current programs and fund what the state does not consider “Basic Education.”
“Many programs we offer and the community expects are not technically considered ‘basic education’ by the State of Washington,” said McCullough. “Our levies have supported and will continue to support buildings and grounds; special programs and staffing; co-curricular and extra-curricular activities; and curriculum and technology.”
Co-curricular and extra-curricular programs include athletics, cheerleading, drama, FFA, FBLA and Knowledge Bowl.
Special programs and staffing include field trips, para-educators, and teaching staff for art, electives, music, P.E. and counselors.
Funds directed towards building and grounds support custodial, energy costs, grounds personnel, maintenance, materials and supplies.
Curriculum and technology funds are used for curriculum materials and educational software, technology and device upgrades and technology staffing.
Compiled by Dee Camp, Amber Hedington, Brock Hires and Katie Teachout.