Walla Walla voters to decide school levy renewal

Levy dollars help cover the cost of expenses considered outside of basic education.

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WALLA WALLA - Area residents are being asked to continue funding for existing programs of Walla Walla Public Schools through a four-year levy.

The 2012 Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy maintains funding provided from the previous levy, approved in 2008. That levy expires at the end of 2012.

The local levy represents about 20 percent of the Walla Walla School District's operating budget, or about $10 million a year.

Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller stressed the levy is a continuation of an existing tax that is already covering the expense of programs and support staff at district schools and buildings.

"It's a replacement levy. It's not a new tax," Miller said. "We're not asking for anything that's new. And the rate is basically the same."

Miller said levy dollars help cover the cost of expenses considered outside of basic education. He gave the district's music programs, physical education, athletics and Explorers program as examples of programs outside of basic education that are still essential to many students.

For example, the district's Explorers program for highly capable students in third through eighth grades receives 80 percent of its funding from local levy funds.

Miller said the levy also supports the hiring of many non-teacher, or classified employees. Support staff, or classified employees, include para-professionals, secretaries, and custodial and maintenance staff. Library staff and health clinicians are also included.

"About one in three classified employees in our district is paid for by our local levy," Miller said.

"We couldn't run our district without our classified folks."

The district has kicked off its campaign to educate residents on the levy, and answer questions on how the money is used, and why local residents are asked to make up a share of school funding.

The levy would extend program funding from 2013 through 2016. The district would receive about $10 million a year, at a rate starting around $3.64 per $1,000 of assessed property value, with the rate increasing slightly each of the four years. A simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote is needed for the levy to pass.

"As state funding becomes more tight, our local funding becomes even more important," Miller said.

"It really touches every student every day."

Maria Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

LEVY IMPORTANT DATES

Jan. 13: Last day to register to vote by mail or online.

Jan. 27: Ballots will be mailed.

Feb. 6: Last day to register to vote in person at election department.

Feb. 14: Deadline to mail in vote. Ballots must be postmarked on or by this date.

LEVY FACTS

2013: $10,227,450 (projected rate $3.64 per $1,000 of assessed property value)

2014: $10,483,136 (projected rate $3.70 per $1,000)

2015: $10,745,215 (projected rate $3.75 per $1,000)

2016: $11,013,845 (projected rate $3.81 per $1,000)

Rates are estimates, and a slight increase over rates from the 2008 levy.

ONLINE

More information on the levy, including a video by Superintendent Miller, is available online at wwps.org.

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