February 19, 2009 in Washington Voices

Liberty schools seek upkeep funds

Superintendent clarifies levy is a replacement
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Liberty School District will ask voters to approve a replacement maintenance and operations levy on ballots for the March 10 election that began arriving in mailboxes this week.

The levy asks to collect a flat rate of $2.45 per $1,000 in assessed home value for each of the next three years. It will replace a levy that is expiring this year. “It’s not a new tax,” said Superintendent Bill Motsenbocker. “It’s just a replacement.”

The district looked at the levy amounts collected over the last three years and took the average. Officials are assuming a modest 4 percent annual growth rate in assessed home values and will replace at least some of the cuts in levy equalization money proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The levy equalization money is given to property-poor school districts, mostly in Eastern Washington, which have assessed home values below the state average.

Liberty gets about $100,000 per year in levy equalization funds and the proposed cuts would lower that amount by $33,000. “That’s not a good thing for a small district,” Motsenbocker said. “We should be able to cover part of that at least.”

Levies usually provide a significant portion of a school district’s annual budget – nearly 24 percent in Liberty’s case. The money is used to pay for things not paid for by the state or not fully funded by the state.

“We use our levy money to decrease class size,” he said. “That’s a big one for us. It pretty much funds our music program. We do full-day kindergarten here, which is not funded.”

The money also helps pay for maintenance, athletics, after-school activities and classroom materials.

Motsenbocker is hopeful that the levy will pass even as the economy struggles. The district has mailed out a fact sheet and Motsenbocker has been giving presentations to local community groups.

“We would be in a bad situation” if it didn’t pass, he said. “It’s been well supported in the past and we’re hoping to have the same this time. Liberty has never lost a levy in the history of the district.”

Nina Culver can be reached at 927-2158 or via e-mail at ninac@spokesman.com.


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