The Cheney School District is asking voters to approve renewals to two existing levies, an Educational Programs and Operation levy and Capital Projects levy.
Levies typically are renewed every three years. The current levies are expiring and school officials say they need them so the money can continue to be collected. The levies are not a new tax.
The proposed rate for operations levy is $1.65 per $1,000 in assessed home value, which is up from the current $1.42 per $1,000. The Capital Projects levy will go down to 10 cents per $1,000 in assessed home value from its current level of 45 cents per $1,000. This means the total amount collected will drop to $1.75 per $1,000 from its current level of $1.87, Superintendent Rob Roettger said.
“We looked at them together,” Roettger said. “We’ve seen growth in the region, so we were conservative.”
The expiring Capital Projects levy, which voters approved for the first time two years ago, was set high initially because the district needed a cash infusion to replace a large number of computers, Roettger said. It turned out to be prescient planning, because it meant the district was in a position to buy 3,300 Chromebooks and 300 teacher laptops last year when schools shut down and learning went virtual.
“It’s been huge,” Roettger said of the financial assistance provided by the Capital Projects levy. “We were so fortunate that it passed. Nobody was planning for a pandemic and distance learning.”
With the technology purchased, the amount of the renewed levy was lowered. The district plans to move forward with an annual technology replacement cycle so there won’t be a need to purchase a large number of computers at once again, Roettger said.
Some of the money from the renewed Capital Projects levy would also be used to resurface the tennis courts at Salnave Elementary School and to pay for new boilers and heat exchangers at several schools.
The operations levy pays for things the state does not consider basic education, which includes nurses, school counselors, custodians, extra teachers for smaller class sizes, athletics and activities.
“It supports many things – arts, music, drama,” Roettger said.
Passing the levy will make the district eligible to receive nearly $1 million a year in Local Effort Assistance funding from the state. Together, the local assistance funds and operations levy money account for 11% of the district’s annual budget.
“It’s a pretty significant portion of our district,” he said.
The district has hosted a couple of webinars about the levies and some people have questioned why the district is putting the levies on the ballot when the economy is so uncertain, Roettger said. If the levies are not renewed this year, the district will lose a significant portion of its budget, he said.
“This is the regular EP&O cycle,” he said. “If they’re not on the ballot this year, there’s a gap in funding.”
The levies require a simple majority to pass. Ballots must be returned or postmarked by Feb. 9. Ballot drop boxes are located at all Spokane County Library District branches, including the branches at 610 First St. in Cheney and at 1213 S. Lundstrom St. in Airway Heights.
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