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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Operations and security upgrades dominate levy requests for area schools

FILE - Students pass in front of Durham School services buses outside Lewis and Clark High School. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Students pass in front of Durham School services buses outside Lewis and Clark High School. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Ballots going out to voters this week ask Spokane County residents to reduce the local property taxes they pay for schools. Sort of.

Levy requests that most area school districts are seeking in the Feb. 13 special election would collect less local money from 2019-2021 than the current tax levies they are replacing. That’s because state taxes are increasing as Washington leaders increase the money collected and spent for basic education.

Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said the change came after state leaders approved appropriations last year to comply with orders by the Washington Supreme Court as part of the McCleary decision, which mandated that the state fully fund basic education.

“Our taxpayers have been bearing the brunt of the local education costs while it is the state’s responsibility to fund basic education,” Redinger said.

As a result, and because of new limits established by the state Legislature, most local school districts are asking voters for the same $1.50 levy rate for every $1,000 worth of assessed property value.

For Spokane residents, that is much less than the $3.77 per $1,000 rate that is currently funding everything from school nurses to counselors, sports activities and school resource officers.

But the lower-levy rate proposals, which require just over 50 percent of voter approval, come with a couple hitches.

The first is that state leaders raised property taxes to fuel the increase of state money used to fund education as part of McCleary. That means state property taxes are going up, from $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $2.46, associate superintendent Mark Anderson said.

Even with the higher state tax rate, local taxpayers will be paying about $1.60 less per $1,000 of assessed property value, Anderson said. For the owner of a $200,000 home in Spokane County, that would be a tax savings of about $320 per year.

However, that tax break will be delayed because the tax bills just arriving continue to include the old $3.77 levy rate, said Linda McDermott, chief financial officer for Spokane Public Schools.

In other words, if voters agree to the new levies, they would see a drop in local property taxes a full calendar year from now.

“For me … trying to communicate this has been an interesting process,” McDermott said. “It’s a transition year.”

“For most school districts, this is the last year or final year of the levies approved under the old law,” McDermott said. “There is some overlap from the old state law and the old local levy laws.”

In addition to the levies, the Mead and Central Valley school districts are asking voters to approve construction bonds. Mead wants $114.5 million to build a new elementary and middle school and a stadium that would house home football games for both Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools.

Central Valley is seeking $129.9 million to build a new high school, a new middle school and renovations to several other buildings. Both bond requests would require approval from more than 60 percent of voters.

Spokane County Schools has had a very successful run of levy elections. The last time voters rejected a request was 1978.

“We tend to have strong support for our schools,” Redinger said, “even though 60 percent of voters don’t have children in our schools.”

Here is the list of other school districts and the levies and bonds on the Feb. 13 ballot.

Levies, which are approved by more than 50 percent of voters, generally pay for school operations and personnel that are not funded by the state.

Bonds generally are used for buildings, technology and other facilities. Capital levies generally are used like bonds but school districts pay as they go instead of borrowing the funds they need.

Great Northern School District

School officials are asking voters to to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund school operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

Nine Mile Falls School District

Voters face two decisions, one to set the three-year levy rate at $1.50 and also a second capital levy that would allow the district to make “health, safety and energy efficiency improvements at Lakeside Middle School.” The capital levy rate would add an additional $1.43 for 2019 and $1.28 for 2020 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It would also pay to upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and replace some roofs.

Medical Lake School District

School officials are asking voters to to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs just over 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

School officials are also asking for a six-year capital levy that would add an additional 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. It would pay for security and infrastructure improvements throughout existing schools. The capital levy would also pay to upgrade roofs and heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Mead School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

School officials also are asking voters to approve a $114.5 million bond that would pay for a new middle school, a new elementary school, a new maintenance building, and a new athletic stadium for both Mt. Spokane and Mead High School football games. The bond would also pay for a separate building that will be used in an agreement with the West Valley and East Valley school districts for bus maintenance. The bond requires more than 60 percent of registered voters to pass.

Central Valley School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

School officials are also asking voters to approve a $129.9 million bond to build a new high school and a new middle school. It would also pay for renovations to Horizon Middle School and upgrades to heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems at several schools. The bond requires more than 60 percent of registered voters to approve.

Freeman School District

School officials are asking voters to approve a capital levy of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value for three years. It would pay for safety, technology and infrastructure improvements throughout school facilities, including installing security cameras, entry controls, classroom computers and a new roof for the middle school.

Cheney School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

Liberty School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

School officials also want voters to approve a three-year capital levy that would pay for improvements to technology, safety and security improvements through the existing school facilities. That would include entry controls and cameras.

West Valley School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

Schools officials also want voters to approve a three-year capital levy, which would add $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, to replace an existing capital levy. The levy would support the district’s modernization and upgrades of technology and computer systems for instruction and operations, as well as other capital project expenditures.

Reardan-Edwall School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

Deer Park School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

Riverside School District

School officials are asking voters to set a three-year levy rate of $1.50 starting in 2019. If approved, the levy would replace the existing levy to fund schools operations for three years. The levy needs more than 50 percent of voters to approve the measure.

School officials also want voters to approve a four-year capital levy, which would add 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, that would pay for installing security cameras and entry controls. It would also pay to replace roofs, improve classrooms for vocational education and purchase computers and telecommunication systems.

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