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Eatonville school levy: Questions and answers from the superintendent

9:11 pm May 31st, 2012

By Rich Stewart

As I am speaking to various groups in the Eatonville community, there are some common questions that are asked of me, and I would like to give you a brief answer to some of these questions.  These questions are not in rank order of importance but are commonly asked.
• What about any extra bond money that is left over?  Can it be used instead of the educational and operations levy?
The short answer is no.  There are funds left over from the bond that was passed in March of 2006. The Eatonville School Board had two public meetings this fall to receive input from the community  how these funds might be used. By law, these funds can be used for capital items, which remodel and update facilities only and can’t be used for such things as the school nurse, elementary counselor, co-curricular activities and other items that are identified for the levy. To summarize, bond funds build and update facilities, levy funds support the existing facilities and programs.
• If this levy doesn’t pass, is there an existing levy at a lower rate that will stay in place?
Again, the answer is no. Our current levy expires as of October 2012, and after that time the district will not collect any levy funds. So if the levy fails, we will collect about 40 percent of the current levy, approximately $1.6 million, requiring our School Board to make significant reductions to our school programs  for the 2012-2013 school year and beyond.
• How much does the levy cost me as a tax payer?
The School Board is asking for a two-year levy that will collect $4.5 million each year, if approved by our voters. The rate that is placed on the ballot is $3.65 per thousand, which is a figure that is based on the current districtwide valuation of property. The cost per thousand is a variable rate and can go up or down depending on how the assessor values all of our properties. The $4.5 million is a fixed amount, and the district is not allowed to collect more than this amount. We have developed two documents that can help you determine your school tax.  The first is a spreadsheet that compares current rate with proposed rate and the difference between the two based on a static property value from $100,000 to $650,000. However, if you want to get exact figures, we have developed a step-by-step guide for navigating the Pierce County assessor-treasurer’s website. Both of these forms are posted on our Eatonville School District website at http://www.eatonville.wednet.edu/education/district/district.php?sectionid=1,  or Google eatonville.wednet.edu and select EatonvilleSD 404 Home.
• How will the levy dollars be used?
We have several documents that summarize how we use these dollars in such categories as teaching and learning, activities and sports, technology, transportation, school budgets and curriculum and assessment. However, there is another document that I have been sharing and is posted on the website, as well. That is a draft spreadsheet that gives more detail of these items.  This is our guide which the School Board monitors very carefully, as we want to spend on what you as a community supports.
All of our documents are on the website for your viewing convenience.   Hopefully, they will answer many of your questions. If not,  please feel free to call Eatonville School District office at 360-879-1000.
One item that has been brought up frequently is the state Supreme Court has mandated our state Legislature to fully fund basic education, which has not been happening for many years. The court did give the Legislature until 2018 to comply with this order.  While this is great news to school districts, the actual implementation of this order is still not a reality, and each district will continue to receive reductions in revenue and rely on the good will of our communities in support of local levies. These levies will allow schools to continue with strong educational programs until we see this implemented, hopefully in 2018.
Please continue to ask questions and gather correct information. Thank you for your continued support.
Rich Stewart is the superintendent of  the Eatonville School District.

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