The Riverside School District in north Spokane County has a replacement capital levy on the Feb. 8 ballot to ask voters to continue funding to purchase ChromeBooks and make improvements to the district’s middle school.
Though the replacement levy is continuing a previous tax, the amount being requested is actually lower. School district voters approved a levy of 80 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2018 and the district is asking for a renewal rate of 63 cents per $1,000.
“That levy now expires this year,” Superintendent Ken Russell said of the levy approved in 2018. “We’re running a replacement levy. It’s not an increase.”
The replacement levy on the ballot is a two-year levy instead of the four-year levy approved previously. That change came at the recommendation of the district’s Facilities Advisory Committee, Russell said. The district hopes a two-year levy will get it through the pandemic and then the district can reevaluate its needs, he said.
Some money from the 2018 levy was used to buy a ChromeBook for every student in grades 6-12 and a ChromeBook for every two students in grades K-5. The renewal levy on the ballot will pay for additional ChromeBooks for grades K-5 so that every student will have one, as well as replacing some of the older ChromeBooks.
The decision to buy ChromeBooks after the initial 2018 levy came just in time for the pandemic and virtual learning, Russell said.
“I am so proud of our community,” he said. “I just try to think what we would have done during the pandemic without the one-to-one devices.”
Some of the levy money, if approved, will be used to build a student commons area and cafeteria at the district’s middle school.
“We don’t have our own cafeteria and commons at the middle school,” he said. “We actually share one with the elementary school.”
A new, more secure entrance would also be added to the middle school as part of the project. It would be on the north end of the school where the bus loop is now. The loop would be moved a bit farther north, Russell said.
Creating a new, more visible entrance would help alleviate confusion for people trying to get into the school, Russell said.
“It really is not evident where the front entrance is,” he said.
The levy funding would also be used to modernize every classroom at the middle school, which would include new flooring, paint, ceilings and furniture. The student lockers would also be replaced.
“It really is a partial modernization of the middle school,” Russell said. “This is going to be a pretty significant construction project for us. We haven’t had any new construction in decades.”
The proposed replacement levy would raise an estimated $998,000 in 2023 and $1,018,000 in 2024. Russell said if the levy is approved, the district would take out a loan for the levy amount so construction on the middle school could begin this summer. The goal would be to have the modernization project complete by the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.
The levy money would provide 45% of the funds needed for the modernization project, Russell said. The other 55% would be covered by federal and state funds, which Russell called a “pretty good deal.”
Ballots will begin arriving in the mail after Jan. 21 and must be postmarked by Feb. 8. A levy requires a simple majority to pass.
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