Local levy amounts smaller but still needed

by Lynnette Hoffman

Local levy amounts smaller but still needed

Sadie Rupp (kindergarten), Dr. Richard Serns (Superintendent), and Carter Coy (First Grade)

Rates for Winlock School District Levies to drop under new levy proposal

Local levy amounts smaller but still needed

Under the new state funding model for the financing of schools in Washington state, the state is increasing it's funding for local districts and making districts less dependent on local levies to fund the costs of basic education, according to Winlock superintendent Rick Serns. In February of 2018 the District will be asking voters to approve a Replacement levy for maintaining programs and operations not funded by state dollars and a small Capital Projects levy that together will drop the rate of collection to approximately $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value, down from the current rate of approximately $2.50. Serns said this is good news for our local taxpayers, however, he wants people to know that these local funds are still needed. Serns explained that the new state funds are very specifically targeted and required to be spent for what the state terms as "basic" education. Thus, there is still a need for local funding of any programs and activities that are outside of what the state defines as "basic" education.

Serns explained what some of these unfunded activities are. For example, state funds do not cover any of the costs for athletics or most other extracurricular activities. And, while the state fully funds the purchase and operation of school buses, it does not fund the costs of purchasing or maintaining any other school vehicles. Serns said the District currently owns four school vans, which are used heavily and each has over 200,000 miles on them. Other transportation costs that are not covered by the state include the transportation costs for most field trips.

Additionally, even for the covering of some of the basic mandated costs of education, local funds are often required, Serns said. For example, while the state and federal government funds some of the increased costs of providing special education services, the legally required costs for providing these services far exceed the amount received from either state or federal dollars for most districts, including Winlock. These extra legally required costs must be paid for out of local school levies or other general funds.

Regarding the Capital Projects levy, Serns said that between major building projects that are funded by bonds, district sometimes have capital expenses that cost much less but are needed to improve or redesign facilities to respond to the current needs of programs. This year for example he said the district enrollment increased by more than forty students, and recently the District learned that the building that the District has been leasing for its alternative school is being sold. Therefore, the District needs to rethink its housing needs and repurpose or expand some of its facilities for the necessary classroom space. Serns said that is why the District has opted to ask for the approval of a Capital Projects levy as well as the Replacement levy. Since the amount requested from voters for a local replacement levy will drop considerably starting in 2019, to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the District felt that this is a good time to rebuild its Capital Project fund as well for a fairly modest additional $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed value. Therefore, these measures together if approved will cost taxpayers approximately $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value, down from the current $2.50.

Serns said that he will be meeting with various local groups and will also be holding several town hall type meetings over the next two months to explain the levy requests to voters and answer any questions. The meetings dates are below:

Dec. 27 Winlock Senior Center Noon & 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 1 Winlock Community Center 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 24 Winlock Senior Center Noon
Jan. 25 Winlock Senior Center 7:00 p.m.

Ballots will be mailed out the last week in January and Election Day is Feb. 13, 2018.