CV superintendent tackles funding questions

THURSDAY, FEB. 2, 2012

Almost every school district in Spokane County will ask voters to consider renewing levies on election day, Feb. 14.

Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small is hosting a series of information sessions to answer voter questions about the district’s levy.

Central Valley School District is asking voters to approve a three-year, $27.1 million levy. If approved, taxpayers will pay $4.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The amount takes into consideration the district’s levy equalization funds – money provided by the state in property-poor regions. Central Valley currently receives $4.3 million in levy equalization, but if the state cuts those funds, the district wants to make sure they don’t have to make any additional cuts. Small said if the state doesn’t cut levy equalization, the district will continue to collect $3.54 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is what it is collecting now.

“We would automatically have to cut $4.3 million from our budget (if levy equalization was cut),” Small said. He said that is about 60 teachers.

At an information session Tuesday at Opportunity Elementary School, Small presented the small audience with information about why the district is asking voters to approve the tax.

One audience member pointed out the levy was only for three years, to replace an expiring tax. She said it seemed like the district was in a habit of asking the taxpayers for these funds and wanted to know if the tax would be permanent.

“We’ve always had a replacement levy,” Small told her. He said the school districts have been asking taxpayers to approve levies since the 1970s and it now accounts for 24.6 percent of the district’s annual budget.

He added that the last time the district asked for a levy back in 2009, the district was also worried about the loss of levy equalization funds. Back then, the district asked voters to approve a $27.3 million levy which was approved, but levy equalization wasn’t cut so the district didn’t collect those taxes.

“The board has kept their promise to the community,” Small said.

The audience member pointed out the district spends $8,985 to educate one student in the district while many private schools can do it for cheaper.

She asked why it would be more expensive to do this on a larger scale.

“Is there waste somewhere?” she asked.

Small said the district is always looking for ways to cut spending. He said the district has made several upgrades in its infrastructure to become more energy efficient. He said the district is projected to save $100,000 this year with those efficiencies.

He then said the district moved its servers off-campus to TierPoint in Liberty Lake to keep the district’s system reliable and up-to-date and is projected to save $284,000 over a five-year period.

“As a school district, I think we have been very frugal with money,” Small said.

Ballots are due Feb. 14. In every district, each levy needs a simple majority of 50 percent to pass.

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