By Pat Jenkins
Voters in the Eatonville School District will decide over the next two weeks if the district can continue to depend on local levy funding to help pay the costs of educating students.
The district is requesting a four-year Educational Programs and Operations. The measure, which would replace an existing levy, calls for collecting between $4.5 million and just under $5 million from 2015 to 2018, which officials say would provide approximately 24 percent of the district’s operating budget.
Voting will start after the Pierce County elections department mails ballots to registered voters this Friday. Voting will end Feb. 11.
Levy supporters are hoping the new proposal will fare better than the current levy, which needed a major revision and two attempts in 2011 before voters approved it.
“These levy dollars are very important to provide a great education for our students and to ensure that they are able to complete in the global marketplace,” said superintendent Krestin Bahr, who is experiencing her first levy request since joining the district last year.
Local levy dollars pay for programs and services that state funding doesn’t cover. For Eatonville, that includes:
• Teachers to keep preferred class sizes.
• Instructional assistants who work one-on-one or in small groups with students and supervise playgrounds.
• Bus transportation for students to and from school, including routes where district officials say it’s unsafe to walk.
• Challenging academics for students, such as gifted education and advanced placement.
• Special-education, remediation, and English as a Second Language.
• Books, other learning materials, software and technology used by students in school.
• Training for teachers to keep their skills and knowledge updated, and time for them to prepare classroom lessons.
• Coaching and supervision for extracurricular activities, including music, sports, clubs and drama.
• Maintaining and operating school facilities, including heat and lights for schools.
The replacement levy’s estimated tax rate of $3.87 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation would remain the same over the four-year life of the levy. The district anticipates collecting $4.5 million in 2015, $4.6 million in 2016, $4.8 million in 2017 and $4.9 million in 2018.
“We appreciate the community’s past support and know that we will be good stewards of public dollars,” Bahr said.
Instead of seeking another two-year levy, district officials and the School Board decided a longer four-year levy would, if approved by voters, provide more stable financial and program planning. It also saves tens of thousands of dollars the district otherwise would have to spend on another election in two years.
The district had to pay for two elections in 2011 when voters initially rejected a four-year levy. The defeat followed controversy over discussions by the board of possibly converting the district to four-day school weeks. In response to parents’ strong objections and in the wake of the levy loss, the board halted a study of the shorter-week proposal and reduced the second levy attempt to a two-year package. It passed with approximately 53 percent of the votes.
A simple majority over 50 percent would also pass this year’s levy request.
The district plans to mail information about the levy to voters this week. Bahr invited anyone with questions to call her at (360) 879-1000.