January 27, 2012 in City

School levies in voters’ hands

Tax rate would rise in most districts
By The Spokesman-Review

All but two school districts in Spokane County have a levy on ballots that are going out today for a Feb. 14 vote.

The local tax replaces current maintenance and operations levies in the districts, although in many cases the estimated tax rate is increasing. Such levies help pay for school programs and personnel, not the construction of buildings. The funds provided by the levy make up 20 percent to 25 percent of each school district’s budget. For Spokane Public Schools, that’s more than $73 million annually.

Without levy dollars, district officials say, hundreds of jobs would be eliminated and programs such as sports, clubs, high school electives, elementary school art and music, online learning and gifted-and-talented classes would be cut.

A failure would result “in a dramatic change to the well-rounded education currently offered in Spokane Public Schools,” said Terren Roloff, Spokane Public Schools spokeswoman.

The ballot asks voters to approve a dollar amount for each school district and lists an estimated tax rate per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

The estimated tax rate is going up in nearly all districts. There are two reasons for that.

For one, property values have fallen since the last levy passed.

“If property values go down in a school district, the rate per $1,000 goes up for the district to collect the same amount,” said Mark Anderson, Spokane Public Schools associate superintendent.

Also, many of the districts have asked voters to approve a little more money to compensate for a possible cut to state levy equalization funds – money given to poorer school districts. If the state comes through, however, district officials pledge they will not collect those additional funds.

Chances are, Anderson said, districts will not collect any more money than they do right now.

Taxes in general have been a hot topic nationally, and the Spokane area is no different.

Citizens for Responsible Taxation, led by retired business owner Duane Alton, began its anti-levy campaign earlier this month by sending out fliers, purchasing billboards and creating a website. The material targets every district levy in Spokane County and calls it a “new tax.”

“It’s a new tax that replaces the old,” Alton said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The fliers and the website also calculate the amount homeowners would pay based on the value of their home. For example, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $3,345 over the three-year life of the levy, or $1,115 annually.

Said Alton, “Homeowners wouldn’t have the figures of how much the levy would cost them if we hadn’t sent them out.”

A poll funded by Greater Spokane Incorporated – the area’s chamber of commerce – found a majority of the 1,100 randomly selected Spokane County voters surveyed support the local tax, said Kevin Dudley, GSI marketing and communications coordinator.

For Spokane Public Schools, the data showed 46 percent strongly support the levy; 25 percent mildly support it; 7 percent mildly oppose it; 9 strongly oppose; 13 percent are not sure and 1 percent refused to answer, Dudley said.

Levies going out for vote today

Central Valley School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $81.3 million

Annual cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.55

Estimated new rate: $4.19

Cheney School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $26.4 million

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $2.94

Estimated new rate: $3.19

Deer Park School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $6,000,533

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $2.46

Estimated new rate: $2.59

East Valley School District

Four-year M&O levy amount: $45,922,176

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.69

Estimated new rate: $4.44

Freeman School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $4,453,423

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $2.92

Estimated new rate: $2.93

Great Northern School District

Two-year M&O levy: $327,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $1.91

Estimated new rate: $1.96

Liberty School District

Three-year M&O levy: $4,410,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $2.68

Estimated new rate: $2.95

Liberty School District

Three-year technology levy amount: $345,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: 24 cents

Estimated new rate: 24 cents in 2013, 23 cents in 2014, 22 cents in 2015

Mead School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $61,950,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.59

Estimated new rate: $4.55

Medical Lake School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $3,392,640

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $1.83

Estimated new rate: $1.99

Nine Mile Falls School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $8,480,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.05

Estimated new rate: $3.43

Riverside School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $10,430,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.08

Estimated new rates: $3.91 in 2013, $4.09 in 2014, $4.34 in 2015

Riverside School District

Four-year technology levy amount: $4,875,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: New

Estimated new rates: $1.46 in 2013, $1.44 in 2014, $1.43 in 2015, $1.41 in 2016

Rosalia School District

Two-year M&O levy amount: $1,040,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $5.02

Estimated new rate: $4.98

Spokane Public Schools

Three-year M&O levy amount: $217.5 million

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $3.94

Estimated new rate: $4.46

St. John School District

Two-year M&O levy amount: $760,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $2.02

Estimated new rate: $2.32

Tekoa School District

Two-year M&O levy amount: $580,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $5

Estimated new rate: $5.16

West Valley School District

Three-year M&O levy amount: $23,520,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: $4.29

Estimated new rate: $4.69

Three-year technology levy amount: $1,500,000

Cost per $1,000 assessed value now: 30 cents

Estimated new rate: 30 cents

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