News

Voters say yes to Levies

CARNATION — Voters in the Lower Valley proved that they

support education through the passage of two of the district's three ballot measures.

The Riverview School District asked voters to approve three

two-year levies which would fund Cedarcrest High's Performing Arts Center,

technology and the district's Maintenance and Operations (M & O) budget.

At press time, the arts center was failing by a fraction of a percent

and the technology and M & O levies secured the 60 percent approval

needed to pass. The final results will be released on Friday, March 10.

In the past, the community has been reluctant to support the

district's ventures including the high school bond, athletics field bond, and

previously, a much larger version of the technology levy.

But this latest victory might be an indication that the district and its

constituents finally agree on the direction education should head into the

new century.

"There's a good feeling in the district," said Paul Censullo, the

district's technology specialist. "It has been

a peaceful and harmonious year so far and the overall health of the district

is improving."

Last May, voters rejected a six-year, $3.9 million technology

levy which forced administrators to reevaluate the immediate

technological needs of the district. What came out of those discussions was a

two-year, $1 million levy which would provide upgraded computer labs, about

300 computers for the classrooms, staff training, multi-media equipment,

and a new phone system.

"We scaled it back to a point where we could do things that were

absolutely necessary and that people could afford," said Laura Ritter,

Riverview's board president. "We also tried

to make it very clear that this will probably not be the last technology levy."

"This only pays for part, but it pays for some of the most expensive

part — the infrastructure," she added.

Now the Technology Steering Committee, which includes

parents, administrators and staff, will decide when and how the levy money will

be spent. Censullo estimates that the new computer labs will be installed

around the middle of next year and staff training could begin as early as this

summer.

The most important and consistently supported measure on the

February ballot was the M & O. That levy provides about 20 percent of

the district's operating budget and pays for extra-curricular programs,

transportation and more. About 64 percent of the voters approved the levy.

But Cedarcrest's Performing Arts Center didn't do as well at the

polls earlier this week. As of Tuesday morning, the levy received 59.64

percent "yes" votes which included 100

percent of poll results and 80 percent of mail-in ballots.

"I'm optimistic," Ritter said. "There's still absentee ballots out

there and you never can tell. I want to stay optimistic."

And the district is still waiting to hear about a $22,500 King

County grant the Duvall Arts Commission applied for which would upgrade

the center's sound system.

"We're still hopeful we'll get the grant so all hope is not gone in

doing work in the Performing Arts Center," Ritter said.

Since the center's opening in 1993, most of the improvements

were bought with $36,000 worth of candy bar sales raised by drama

teacher Karen King and her students. The two-year, $210,000 levy would have

supplied stage rigging and drapery, lighting instruments and more.

If the measure doesn't receive the votes needed, however, Ritter said

the arts center levy will probably be brought up again when the board

discusses future projects including Cedarcrest's athletic fields.

Despite the possible loss of one of its levies, officials said they are

thankful to receive support from the residents in the Lower Valley.

"We're pleased that the community valued what we thought was

important, so it was nice that we got validation that it's important to them

too," Censullo said. "If we feel like

they're listening, then we're on the right track and that was the best part."

"Thanks to everyone who cares about kids and the schools,"

Ritter added. "And thank you for trusting the board and district that we will do

our best with what the people have given us."

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