February 26, 2009 in Washington Voices

Cheney levy renewal on ballot

Tax rate lower than levy it would replace
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Cheney Public Schools is asking voters to renew its maintenance and operations levy that was last approved in 2006.

“This is not something new,” said Larry Keller, superintendent of Cheney schools.

The levy, which is not a new tax, will cost property owners $2.87 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That figure is 60 cents lower than the one approved three years ago of $3.47 per $1,000.

The funds will help pay for items such as textbooks, library materials and additional staffing that isn’t covered by state funds the district receives.

It also provides funds for extracurricular activities such as sports and music, plus transportation for students involved in those activities.

Keller said the community places special value on these programs for their children, and he agrees.

“We want our kids to participate in band and chorus,” Keller said. He said that the music and sports programs the district offers students helps keep them engaged and explore who they are.

“There’s a cost to do that,” he said.

The funds will provide around 19 percent of the district’s operating budget until 2012 when the levy will expire.

The Cheney school district is large geographically and the number of students attending schools in the district has grown significantly over the last few years.

In 2004, the district had approximately 3,200 full-time students. In 2008, that number had risen to around 3,500.

About 2,000 of those students are bused over 50 routes and cover an area that includes Cheney, Fishtrap, Tyler, Garden Springs, Airway Heights and south to the Whitman County line.

Approval of the levy also means the district will receive around $1 million in levy equalization funds from the state.

Keller stressed that the funds will not be used for new programs, but to maintain the ones the district already has.

“This is the essential amount we need,” he said.

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.

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