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West Valley School District asking voters for two tax levies

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 29, 2017, 3:23 p.m.

FILE – A new commons area used as the lunchroom gets packed by students at lunchtime at the newly remodeled West Valley High School in Spokane Valley, Wash., on the first day of school, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – A new commons area used as the lunchroom gets packed by students at lunchtime at the newly remodeled West Valley High School in Spokane Valley, Wash., on the first day of school, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

Voters in the West Valley School District will decide the fate of two tax proposals in February.

West Valley School District’s board of directors unanimously approved on Nov. 8 two ballot measures to continue funding for teacher salaries, athletics and school programs.

One levy would focus on operations. The other would focus on technology, security and other capital projects.

The levies would provide about $11.4 million to the West Valley School District over three years and replace current levies expiring in 2018.

The proposed levies would fund textbooks, curriculum and the school’s science, technology, engineering and math program, and also would help pay for teacher salaries, the school’s security system, athletics and student transportation.

The levies would actually decrease property taxes in West Valley.

The current levy rate – approved by voters in 2015 – is a combined $4.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The two replacement levy rates will decrease to a combined $2.50 per $1,000.

Under legislation approved in the summer, the state levy rate is set to increase to $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value beginning in 2018 and many local property tax rates would decrease – including in West Valley.

The bill will equalize levies across the state, said West Valley School District spokeswoman Sue Shields.

The current levy rate is higher in the Valley because the district is smaller and doesn’t have a large amount of industrial businesses to even out property tax rates, so expenses fell on the taxpayers, Shields said.

West Valley School Board Director Robert Dompier, who was recently re-elected to his school board seat, told The Spokesman-Review in October a primary concern going forward was navigating financial uncertainty of the school district.

Although the state’s operating budget will align with a Supreme Court order demanding better state funding for schools, that funding was not implemented within the court-intended time frame, which is causing some school districts to have a revenue shortfall, Dompier said.

West Valley will face a funding shortfall of about $1 million in 2018, but will qualify for levy equalization, in which the state provides a portion of funds to small school districts.

Even with that, West Valley will still be short, Dompier said. “I foresee these levies especially important to get support of the community because of the shortfall in the legislative budget.”

West Valley voters will receive ballots including the proposed levy rates in late January.

“It would be devastating if we don’t have levy dollars,” Shields said. “Resource officers, counselors, STEM programs and athletics would be critically impacted. We are blessed to have wonderful programs. We’d like to maintain technology and STEM. Technology is really important for kids to have equipment they need to keep up.”