Four school districts within Klickitat County are submitting replacement levies for voter approval at the next election.
Lyle, Bickleton, Trout Lake and Roosevelt school districts are the four jurisdictions which seek authorization to replace enrichment levies, also known as maintenance and operations levies, which are set to expire in the next collection year. The special election will be held Feb. 9, 2021.
While none of these are new taxes, some proposed levies would increase local funding for education programs, and others would keep the collection amount the same for the next two to three years.
For example, Lyle School District is proposing a collection of $700,000 per year for the next two years, the same amount voters approved in 2019, while Trout Lake School District is seeking a 89.2 percent increase in the maximum collection amount, from $290,000 to $540,000 per year.
Lyle School District Superintendent Dr. Ann Varkados told Columbia Gorge News the district, like many small school districts in Washington state, are in need of local funding to sustain school operations.
The funds levied can only be used in certain ways due to Washington state’s restructuring of public education financing in recent years. Varkados said such levies, now known as enrichment levies, provide support for areas of school operations not fully covered by state and federal subsidies, such as utility costs, extracurricular activities student lunches, as well as sports equipment, salaries for support staff and coaching stipends.
“Our local funds are essential to students’ success and these are things that are not paid out of our portion [by the state],” Varkados said.
While the state has attempted to remedy the situation in past years, such as allowing smaller districts to levy at a higher rate in 2019, for instance, Varkados said besides the federal CARES Act, which allowed Lyle School District to invest in technology upgrades, smaller school districts have seen little in the way of added support during the COVID-19 pandemic. With lowered full-time enrollment numbers, which serve as a benchmark for state support, and limited capacity due to social distancing guidelines, Varkados said the district is currently exceeding its allocation from the state.
Illustrating the situation of being a school district open to in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Varkados said that “we’re running busses daily, but with smaller groups of students each day... The expenses are the same or more but we’re receiving less from the state.”
Varkados said the levy helps to fill gaps in equity due to its ability to spur motivation and innovation in students through extracurricular programs and sports.
“If we have thirteen percent less than our neighbor next door, than our kids would not have the same opportunity,” Varkados said.
Despite the rising costs, Lyle School District officials are seeking to keep their promise to voters not to raise over $700,000 in total. The Lyle Schools Citizens Committee is hosting a Levy Information Zoom Meeting for the community on Jan. 21, beginning at 6 p.m. Zoom instructions will be on the district website, www.lyleschools.org.
See below for a list of details on the proposed levies being considered for voter approval in Klickitat County.
Lyle School District
The Lyle School District is seeking to renew a two-year enrichment levy, and according to a press release, is promising that collections will not go over $700,000 in total. District officials are thus estimating that the rate at which taxes are levied will be $1.64 per $1000 of assessed value for the levy year 2022 and will drop to $1.59 for the levy year 2023.
Bickleton School District
A three-year maintenance and operations levy collected by Bickleton School District is set to expire in 2021, which a proposal submitted by the district is set to remedy. District officials are estimating a rate of $.90 per $1,000 of assessed value for the next three years, from 2022 to 2024. Officials seeking a levy amount of $300,000 each year throughout the course of the levy, if approved.
Trout Lake School District
Trout Lake School District’s two-year replacement levy is set to expire in 2021, and district officials are estimating a collection each year in the amount of $540,000 in 2022, and $575,000 in 2023 to sufficiently provide for the next three school years. According to the ballot title, the estimated levy rate is $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value for both levy years. If approved, the district would see an increase from the expiring levy, which gathered $290,000 in collection years 2020 and 2021.
Roosevelt School District
Roosevelt School District officials are seeking a levy in the amount of $60,000 for three collection years starting in 2021. The proposed levy would provide for approximately the same programs as before for the school years 2021-2022, 2022-2023, 2023-2024, and 2024-202, according to the ballot measure. It is estimated to equal a rate of $0.38 per $1,000 of assessed value for the three collection years.
Correction: The print version of this article, in the list of levy proposals, incorrectly cited Lyle and Trout Lake School District collection years as 2021 and 2022. The correct years for the proposed levy collections are 2022 and 2023. Columbia Gorge News regrets the error