Cheney Public Schools will ask voters to approve a $4.2 million capital property tax levy in November that would help the district pay for future school sites and technology upgrades.
About $1.74 million would be spent on land for a new elementary school and second transportation hub as the district prepares for an influx of students over the next decade, Superintendent Rob Roettger said.
A report released in August projected the district’s student population could expand from about 4,900 students this year to 9,200 by 2029.
“The district is growing. Airway Heights is growing,” Roettger said.
Another $2.3 million from the levy would pay for technology upgrades throughout the district, including new laptops for employees and students, Roettger said. He said the last time the district collected property taxes for a technology levy was 2010.
“This would provide a significant boost in technology for staff and students,” Roettger said.
For security purposes, the district also wants to use levy funds to replace old intercom and bell systems that are interfacing with newer technology at schools with building additions, Roettger said.
The remaining $200,000 from the levy would be used to pay for district maintenance equipment, like snow plows and maintenance trucks, Roettger said.
The new property tax would be collected from district residents at an estimated rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2020 and 2021. That means the owner of a $300,000 property would pay about $300 in additional taxes over the levy cycle.
Cheney School Board member Mitch Swenson said the school district needs the two-year capital property levy acquire land for future schools and upgrade technology in schools.
“I appreciate the fact that it’s hard when taxes go up,” Swenson said. “But I think sometimes you have to take yourself out of that and think that it’s the kids. We want to continue to be the best district that we can be.”
But Cheney Public Schools board candidate Bill Johns said the district is asking for too much money from tax payers.
“I’ve done a lot of door belling in this district on other issues,” Johns said. “And not a lot of these people can afford it.”
Johns said the district could use reserve funds for land acquisitions if it had given teachers smaller raises last year. He added that students could go a few more years with older computers, too.
The district is spending about $3.2 million more on teacher salaries this year compared to the 2017-18 school year, which is close to a 12.8% increase, according to the district budget. But the district also hired additional teachers to handle a projected 150 new students.
Due to more projected population growth, Roettger said residents need to get used to the idea that the district will be coming to taxpayers more often.
“We’re really trying hard to manage our growth and tax rates,” Roettger said. “Building additional schools without levies and bonds won’t happen.”
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