Levies are a fact of life in local school districts. For generations, they’ve been a crucial ‘secondary’ funding source for school districts.
Voters in the Snoqualmie Valley School District and neighboring Riverview School District are asked to approve, renew and boost their local school levies, by voting yes and returning their ballots by mail before election day, Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Anyone even loosely connected with schools knows the importance of the levies, which provide more than just the basics as of 2014. Today, operations levies provide about a quarter of the revenues to run our local public schools. They’re more important than ever.
These levies do reflect an increase in costs this go-round. Some increases are to be expected, as the local district must make good on its commitments to paying teachers, paying the bills and providing necessities such as transportation and books. Such costs rarely go down.
So, the operations levy goes up, about 30 cents in the first year, rising to 45 cents, for a grand total of $2.95, by 2018. It’s about $135 extra, annually, in property taxes for a homeowner with a $400,000 house. Put a different way, that’s one or two nice dinners out, that folks can probably spare to ensure local schools maintain the basics. If that amount hurts because you’re a senior on a fixed income, you can and should apply for a tax waiver from the county. To get started, visit www.kingcounty.gov/assessor.
What might happen if the levy should fail? Lots of bad stuff. We’d lose music teachers, school nurses, counselors, cooks and some of the precious few custodians we have left. Honors programs, art, special ed, sports, safety programs. School as we know it would be very different. Take a second and imagine your local schools with three-fourths of the resources, and little of the enrichment that really makes schools alive. That is why we need to approve these levies and maintain what we have.
Really a basic
Districts are also running tech levies, to go beyond the basics and give students a leg up on the tech that they’ll need in the real world. Some might say it’s an extra. But the fact is that America has always been a place where change is constant. Children who don’t get a taste of technology, and learn to use tools that they might not have access to at home, at a crucial time, will have to play catch up if and when they get a chance in career or college. Technology should be in school; it’s one ‘extra’ that is really a basic. Voters should renew these tech levies, too.
One thing I’d like readers to be clear on is that Valley students and teachers are doing well, academically, and they have earned our support. Local students consistently perform between 10 and 20 percent higher than the state average on their standardized reading, math, writing and science tests. I know that standardized test scores aren’t necessarily the measure of someone’s potential, but in the 21st century, they seem to have become the main tool we use to determine if students are meeting standards. A sizeable majority of our students are doing just that.
In my ideal world, levy amounts would be flat, taxes would fall, the cable bill would never rise. The world we live in today, though, means these kinds of things do go up. But we can deal. Let’s make sure we provide our schools, our students, and our teachers, with the resources they need.