One Last Look At The Nine Mile Falls School Levy
Remember To Vote By February 14th
•Levy Equalization funds are state funds intended to supplement local school levies for school districts with less than the state average in property value. Levy Equalization funds can only be received by a district if they pass their local school levy.
Somewhere buried in that pile of unopened mail from the past week is a ballot for the Nine Mile Falls School Levy. Well, it is time now to dig it out, mark your ballot, stamp it and make sure to mail it. There has certainly been no shortage of information on this topic to help voters understand exactly what is at stake. Most everyone has probably seen the flyers, newspaper articles, advertisements and letters to the editor supporting passage of the levy. Perhaps they have even answered a knock on their door and found Nine Mile Falls School Superintendent Brian Talbott on their doorstep, eager to talk to them about why the levy is needed. Indeed, Talbott has been busy the last few weekends beating the streets and attending community and neighborhood meetings in an effort to educate as many voters as possible about how critical the levy is to the district.
If one has children or grandchildren in school, the decision to approve the levy is probably easier to make. After all, a yes vote means an investment in the future of their loved one. But if someone doesn’t have children in school, the decision may seem a bit tougher and require more of a gut-check, given the sluggish economy.
To those people, the argument is often made that a high quality school district attracts families and businesses to the area, greatly contributing to the quality of life and stability of the region. Additionally schools provide everyone in the community with meeting places for local organizations and for a variety of family-oriented activities that are non-school related. Ask any realtor and they will confirm a good school system elevates everyone’s property values and makes the community a desirable place to raise a family. Simply stated, the school district is tightly woven with the reputation and lifestyle of the community it serves.
For those who haven’t made up their mind yet about how to vote on the levy issue, here is a final look at a few important facts to consider:
• The current levy expires at the end of this year, which means the district must now renew the levy for another three years or face a loss of roughly 24% of its current operating budget in 2013.
• The district is asking for $3.43 per $1,000 of assessed valuation which amounts to roughly $600 a year on a home assessed at $175,000. The requested levy is a renewal of the expiring $3.00 levy plus a $.43-cent increase per $1,000 of assessed value to compensate for anticipated cuts in state funding. The $.43-cent increase represents about $75.25 annually or $6.27 monthly on that same $175,000 property.
• The replacement levy funds a wide range of critical services and activities in the district, such as teachers and instructional assistants needed for class sizes conducive to learning, textbooks, technology tools, and classroom supplies, pre-school and special education, elective classes made available to middle and high school students, ongoing maintenance of facilities and equipment, student transportation, food service, and community access to school facilities. Additionally, all extra-curricular activities and programs such as music, athletics, and student clubs are totally dependent on levy dollars.
• Senior citizens and disabled residents may qualify for a residential property Tax exemption for all or part of the levy assessment by applying through their local county Assessor’s Office.
There are not a lot of certainties in the world today, except death and taxes. And oh yes, we can all add school levies to that list until Washington State fully funds education. According to Superintendent Brian Talbott, levy dollars are desperately needed by the district to make up the difference between what the state pays and what it actually costs to educate the children in our community. And the situation is not likely to improve anytime soon given the state’s economic outlook.
“The levy touches virtually every aspect of the daily delivery of education, offerings, and opportunities available to students,” Talbott said. “We are far past the point of eliminating frills and extras. A levy failure would be catastrophic to the quality of education we can provide and that our students and families have the right to expect” he concluded.
Now it is in the hands of the voters. They will decide whether or not the kids in our community will suffer the consequences of a struggling economy.