School levies vote is around corner

December 31, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

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District asks voters to renew three measures

The Issaquah School District is asking for your vote Feb. 9.

School district officials have three measures on the ballot, each a replacement levy that would supplement the schools’ budget with more than $214 million by 2014 if voters approve it.

The measures — a $172.5 million maintenance and operations levy; a $1.7 transportation levy; and a $40.4 million technology and critical repairs levy — would sustain funding in those areas for the next four years.For taxpayers, the total estimated tax for all levies and the remainder of the 2006 bond during each year would be:

  • $4.81 per assessed $1,000 in 2011
  • $4.79 per assessed $1,000 in 2012
  • $4.34 per assessed $1,000 in 2013
  • $4.32 per assessed $1,000 in 2014

Under the proposal, there would not be a tax increase nor would the district exceed the tax rate promised by district officials in 2006, said Jacob Kuper, chief of finance and operations for the district.

The Renton School District doesn’t have any measures before voters.

To ensure the levies are something the community would vote for, Issaquah school officials commissioned the Levy Committee to help develop a package.

A group of volunteer community representatives created the levy package with help from district officials. For each levy, the group considered the burden on taxpayers and the district’s needs in coming years.

The maintenance and operations levy covers the state’s shortfall for special education; teacher salaries; highly capable learners; English language learners; Advanced Placement and honors courses; extracurricular activities, such as arts and athletics; and fuel for buses.

In 2006, voters approved a $100 million maintenance and operations levy.

In the fourth year of that levy, residents will pay $1.55 per assessed $1,000 of property. A homeowner with a $500,000 house is paying $775 this year.

The new maintenance and operations levy will ask residents to approve $172.5 million, up from an original proposal of $155.5 million. On average, the four-year levy will bring in $43 million annually.

School board members approved the increase to reflect several factors occurring at the state and federal levels. They included a recommendation by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn for districts to use their full levy authority in the economic recession; a request by Gov. Chris Gregoire to increase districts’ levy authority up to 36 percent; and the volatility of federal funding, Kuper said at the board’s Dec. 9 meeting.

The change in amounts reflects Gregoire’s proposed levy lid increase if it is passed by the Legislature this term.

Essentially, if the Legislature doesn’t approve a levy lid lift, the district can only collect the original amount requested — $155.5 million.

The transportation levy allows district officials to purchase new buses.

The last transportation levy in 2006 provided the district with $2.8 million to purchase 36 large and 12 small buses.

The one-year 2011 transportation levy will tax each household 7 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property. It will provide the district $1.7 million in 2011 to purchase 41 buses by 2014.

The technology piece of the levy would be used to purchase new software and computers, update buildings without wireless Internet, interactive white boards that connect to the school’s computers and teacher training for new software. The technology portion of the levy is $32.9 million, according to district documents.

The critical repairs piece would pay for repairs or replacements throughout the district, like kitchen and building equipment, school roofs or carpets. The critical repairs portion of the levy would bring in $5.6 million.

The election and you

Ballots will come in the mail starting Jan. 19, and must be postmarked by Feb. 9. You can still register to vote, by Jan. 11. You must be a citizen of the U.S., a legal resident of Washington state, at least 18 by Feb. 9 and not under the authority of the Department of Corrections. Go to www.kingcounty.gov/elections/registration.

What your school will gain in critical repairs and technology

  • Newcastle Elementary School: repairs to the playfield drain and wall laminate; upgraded emergency radio communication system; replacement of hot water tanks with tankless units for energy conservation; installation of wireless Internet in some parts of the building
  • Maywood Middle School: installation of soundproofing between mobile walls; upgrade food service equipment, fire system piping and emergency radio communication system; replace hot water tanks, backflow pipes, plumbing fixtures, heat circulation pumps and sinks; wireless Internet installation throughout the building
  • Liberty High School: improve drainage and replace infield; replant outfield in the upper fields; repair and resurface main and south parking lots; repaint restrooms and gyms; repair food service equipment; replace fire system piping, heat circulation pumps backflow pipes, and plumbing fixtures and sinks; wireless Internet installation throughout the building

Source: Issaquah School District School funding 101

  • Bond: A bond is similar to a loan and can only be used for the district’s capital budget. Specifically, it can be used to buy land, or build or renovate school facilities. Such projects are expensive and funding them by other levy types would be cost prohibitive for taxpayers.
  • Levy: A levy is intended to cover costs not funded by the state. State law limits the term of levies to four years, which means district officials have to go back to voters every few years to retain the same level of spending and standard of education.

On the Web

  • Levy information: www.issaquah.wednet.edu/district/ levy
  • Volunteers for Issaquah Schools: www.visvote.org
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