Valley school districts seek to pass levies

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VOTE NOTES

Districts in Feb. 11 Special Election

Walla Walla County; Dixie School District No. 101; College Place School District No. 250; Waitsburg School District No. 401-100; Prescott School District No. 402-37.

Ballots mailed: Ballots to military and overseas voters were mailed Jan. 10. All other ballots were mailed Friday

Accessible voting: The AutoMARK is a disability access machine to assist voters with marking ballots. It will be available at the county Elections Center, 310 W. Poplar St., on weekdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day. Voters must bring in the ballot they received in the mail.

Logic and accuracy test: The test will be performed 10 a.m. Tuesday on the optical scan system used to tabulate the ballots. The county Auditor’s Office will conduct the test at the Elections Center.

Processing ballots

Elections Department staff will begin processing ballots on Jan. 30 and continue through Feb. 25.

Election Day tabulation: Ballot counting will begin at 10 a.m. Preliminary election results will not be released until after 8 p.m.

Canvassing of returns: The Canvassing Board meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Feb. 24.

Election certification: The election will be certified by Walla Walla County at 2 p.m. Feb. 25.

Observers: Observers are welcome during ballot preparation, the logic and accuracy test, ballot processing, ballot tabulation, and Canvassing Board meetings. A minimum of one person from each political party is requested to observe all processes.

College Place and Dixie school districts will try to pass levies to supplement state funding in a special election to be held Feb. 11.

Dixie also wants to pass a capital improvement levy to address infrastructure and safety concerns at Dixie School.

The county mailed ballots Friday. Levies need only a simple majority to pass, as opposed to bond elections, which require more than 60 percent voter approval.

College Place

College Place wants to pass a four-year programs and operations levy to collect $2.98 million per year. It would replace a levy for the same amount that is set to expire at the end of 2014.

The district estimates the new levy will cost taxpayers $3.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in property taxes in 2015, the first year of the levy. However, it projects that rate could fall to $3.23 by the end of the levy in 2018 as property values in the district increase.

In 2013 College Place residents paid $3.17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the school levy, according to the county Assessor’s Office. Data for 2014 is not yet available.

The district derived almost a third of its budget from its local levy in 2012-13 according to a handout it sent to voters recently.

About $1.2 million of the levy is slated to cover maintenance, staffing and school materials.

The next largest expense is a $596,000 yearly payment to Walla Walla School District for students who attend Walla Walla High School.

With construction underway on the new College Place High School, that payment will decline as the district sends fewer students to Wa-Hi and ultimately drop to zero when CPHS begins admitting 12th-graders, set for 2017-18.

The remainder of the levy is split over a variety of items, such as sports programs, special education programs and other services.

Dixie

Dixie wants to pass a six-year capital improvements levy to collect $75,000 per year and a two-year maintenance and operations levy for $230,730 per year.

The maintenance and operations levy will provide supplemental funding for the district, and cost taxpayers $3.17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, according to the county. That is the same as in 2013.

The capital improvements levy, which is estimated to cost $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, will cover a variety of expenses geared toward making the school more efficient and safe, such as heating and insulation upgrades, resurfacing the gymnasium floor and a variety of other needs.

The school is also in the process of overhauling its heating system, however that will be done with money out of the general budget.

The district’s lone school, Dixie School, currently serves 28 K-5 students and eight preschoolers. Students in grades six through 12 have the option to attend either Waitsburg or Walla Walla schools.

Prescott

The Prescott School District has placed a $615,000 per year replacement levy for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school year on the February ballot.

That’s an increase from the current $585,000 levy, though due to rises in property values within the district, the tax rate for the proposed levy is estimated at $2.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, below the current rate of $2.39.

The extra levy funds will be dedicated to the district’s technology needs. Superintendent Brett Cox said that for the first time, the district has made an inventory of all hardware and software currently in use and a replacement schedule to ensure computers and other devices are up-to-date and working.

Other levy items includes funding for athletics and other extracurricular programs, food service, new curriculum, grounds maintenance and other district operating costs. The funds pay for school costs and programs not covered by the state.

“This levy will allow us to continue to provide quality programs,” said Cox.

Waitsburg

The Waitsburg School District is asking voters for a $1.08 million two-year replacement levy.

The levy would cover the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, levying $532,000 in 2015 and $548,000 in 2016, and replacing a two-year $882,000 levy approved in 2012.

If approved, that would mean a tax rate of about $4.08 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2015 and $4.20 in 2016. Those estimates are based on 2013 property values, so actual rates may be lower.

The increase in amount is because of funds to upgrade district technology, which Superintendent Carol Clarke said will “help (students) to be better 21st century digital citizens.”

A survey conducted by the district of 59 voters indicated that 53 either supported or strongly supported the use of district funds for technology upgrades.

Other levy items include maintaining current levels of classified staff, purchasing instructional materials in line with new Common Core standards, support for athletics and other extracurricular activities, facilities maintenance and staff professional development.

Ben Wentz can be reached at benwentz@wwub.com or 526-8315. Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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