We strongly urge approval of the Walla Walla Public Schools' Educational Programs and Operations Levy on the Feb. 14 ballot.
The funds garnered from the levy account for 20 percent of the school district's budget and are essential to ensure local students have access to a wide variety of classes and activities. The levy money pays for programs critical to receiving a well-rounded education.
Levy money funds physical education classes, music and other fine arts programs, FFA programs, athletic programs and more. Levy dollars help keep class sizes lower and help fund staff training programs. Salaries of more than 100 employees of the school district are funded through the levy.
Most of that money stays in the community and helps keep the local economy strong.
The bottom line is that no school district in the state can operate effectively without supplemental funds provided by the community. Walla Walla is no exception.
However, the Walla Walla School Board's levy request -- about $42 million over the next four years -- is less than the state allows. School Board members tried to keep the amount they requested as low as possible so the tax rate over the next four years will rise only slightly, if at all, compared to the current assessment for local property owners approved in 2008.
The assessment is based on the actual dollar amount requested. The district is seeking just over $10 million for 2013 and increases about $250,000 a year to $11 million in 2016. The amount each property owner pays is calculated by taking the total assessed value of all the property in the school district boundaries and figuring out how much per $1,000 of assessed valuation it will take to collect the amount requested.
The assessment for 2012 was originally estimated at $3.83 per $1,000 of assessed property value when the levy was approved in 2008. But because the total value of property in the district is now higher than anticipated, the actual cost to homeowners this year will be $3.59 per assessed valuation.
The projected cost per $1,000 of assessed value for the proposed four-year levy is $3.64 for 2013 rising to $3.81 in 2016. Historically, those estimates are high and the actual assessments will likely be lower.
The School Board has done a good job of keeping the cost to taxpayers down, which is not easy given the state's current budget problems. Education, despite the constitutional mandate the state must fully fund basic education, has seen its contributions from the state remain stagnant while expenses have been rising.
Walla Walla Public Schools has budgeted well and is making the most of the dollars it collects from the state and local property owners.
Voters should have no hesitation in approving this necessary levy request. It ensures Walla Walla schools will continue to deliver a quality education to our students.