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Voters to face decision on Riverside School District levies

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 7, 2017, 2:20 p.m.

Almost every school district in the area will present levies to their voters in February, and Riverside School District in Chattaroy is no exception.

“It’s a huge portion of our budget,” said Ron Thompson, the district’s business manager.

On Feb. 13, voters in Riverside will decide on two levies – one that will replace its current levy to help fund all the district’s needs not covered by the state. These programs include special education, athletics, electives, band, drama, choir, transportation, after-school programs, intervention staff, nurses, counselors, paraeducators and other programs. The school board approved putting these measures on the ballot during its Nov. 20 meeting.

Superintendent Ken Russell said these programs are vital to Riverside students. The levy provides for students who may need the district’s help to succeed. Electives give students opportunities to find something they enjoy and keep them engaged at school. Athletics and music bring the community together.

Riverside is eligible for levy equalization funds – property-poor districts receive extra state funding to offset the lack of significant businesses in the area. If Riverside doesn’t pass the levy, it is ineligible for these funds.

“Historically, voters have been very supportive of our levies,” Russell said.

This levy also provides funding for the district’s transportation department. While states have formulas to give funds for fleet maintenance and upgrades, Riverside is at a disadvantage – it’s a district with a smaller student population, but a large geographic area.

“The state’s formula doesn’t cover what we need,” Russell said.

The superintendent expects taxpayers’ levies to go down if voters approve this measure. In 2017, the district collected $3.14 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If approved, Riverside will collect $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value starting in 2019.

“It’s less than half of what we’re currently collecting,” Thompson said. Since the state is now collecting more property taxes to provide funds to schools, districts must collect fewer. Superintendent Russell describes it as a swap.

Levy No. 2 is a new measure for voters. Russell said this levy has three parts: security, facilities and technology.

The security portion of this levy will provide funds for additional automatic door locks and cameras at all facilities. Russell said these additions to school security are the second phase of upgrades. The district recently completed its first phase.

The facilities portion of the levy will improve the district’s roofs.

“There are 25 roofs in the district,” he said. All of them are vinyl and flat. During our harsh winters, these roofs are hard to clear of snow and drain. The district is proposing replacing them with metal and pitched roofs.

It will also help to improve the high school’s shop space. Russell said there are about 200 students who enroll in these career and technical education classes that include welding, woodshop, small engine repair and metal shop.

“We just need to improve our spaces,” Russell said.

The third portion of this levy will provide for every students’ access to laptops and improved classroom technology.

If approved, the district will collect 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for three years.

If voters approve both measures, the district will collect a total of $2.30 per $1,000 in 2019 – still less than what the district collects now.

Riverside School District serves about 1,350 students in one high school, one middle school, two elementary schools, a homeschool partnership, an alternative school and three preschools.

“Our kids need to have the same opportunities as the surrounding districts,” Russell said.

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of students in the Riverside School District due to a reporter’s error.


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