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Two Replacement Levies on Feb. Ballot

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

FutureReadyStudents

Two replacement levies will be on the Feb. 13, 2018 special election ballot for Tahoma School District voters and a third levy, to buy buses, could be added.

Tahoma School Board members voted unanimously last week to authorize replacement levies for technology and educational programs and operations. The levies would be collected over four years, beginning in 2019. They would replace existing levies, though at a lower overall tax rate, and would provide funds for equipment, services and staff positions that do not receive state funding.

The levies pay for different things than the construction bond measure approved by voters in 2013. The construction bond pays only for capital projects, such as the new Tahoma High School and new Lake Wilderness Elementary School. The school district sells bonds to raise money for construction and uses taxpayer funds to pay back the bonds over 20 years. By law, bond funds cannot be used for ongoing expenses, such as employee salaries or extracurricular programs.

The Educational Programs and Operations levy is estimated to cost property owners a maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value each year, which is half of what is currently being collected, and would raise about $12.7 million the first year. The levy would pay for employees, supplies, transportation staffing and program costs not funded by the state, including special education.

The technology levy is estimated to cost 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed value the first year and would raise $2.75 million each year to purchase computers, communications network equipment, software, and pay for technology support staff.

Superintendent Rob Morrow said renewal of the two levies is necessary despite changes in how Washington state funds schools. The new funding plan, approved last summer, does not pay for classroom technology and does not fully fund staffing costs, special education, athletics and other extracurricular activities, professional learning opportunities, or additional program offerings beyond basic education.

The levies would help Tahoma maintain its current programs and staffing. Projections indicate that Tahoma taxpayers will see a reduction in school taxes even with approval of the levies in February, due to the lower rate for the Educational Programs and Operations levy and the expected increase in property value throughout the school district.

The board also began discussing whether to add a one-year transportation levy that would collect $1.5 million to purchase buses that are needed to enlarge and modernize the fleet. The board could decide to add the transportation vehicle levy to the ballot at its Nov. 14 meeting. The measure would add about nine new buses to replace aging vehicles and provide additional buses that could be used to expand routes. Tahoma has not had a transportation vehicle levy since 2002. Morrow told the board that adding buses is only part of the solution to expanding bus routes, due to the continuing shortage of drivers for Tahoma and in the Puget Sound region.

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