Enumclaw and White River school districts’ levies on the February ballot

Voters in the Enumclaw and White River districts will soon be asked to decide the fate of a pair school levies – one of the basic “maintenance and operations” variety and another for technological enhancements.

In Enumclaw’s case, both levies are of the replacement variety. In White River, the M&O proposal would take the place of an existing levy, while the technology levy seeks new dollars.

All four levies will be decided as part of the Feb. 11 election. Ballots will be in the mail later this month and must be postmarked by election day. The four ballot measures require a simple majority for passage.

Enumclaw’s M&O levy

The M&O levy is pretty straightforward, with no surprises for anyone familiar with the way school districts operated in Washington state. The bulk of the district’s funding comes from the state, collected in the form of property taxes, but districts also rely on local support.

Enumclaw’s M&O levy – most recently approved in February 2010 – has come to represent about 20 percent of the district’s overall budget. M&O money is used for day-to-day operations within the district, specifically for things like utilities, transportation, special education, substitute teachers, athletics and activities, custodians, nurses and other specialists.

Everyone who owns taxable property pays into the M&O levy and, during the course of Enumclaw’s four-year proposal, that would equate to more than $42 million. The February ballot measure would be for collections in 2015 through 2018, starting with $10.1 the first year and close to $10.8 million in year four.

Individual tax collections are based on property values and Enumclaw taxpayers are now paying at a rate of $3.83 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. If the February M&O levy is approved, the rate would jump slightly to an anticipated $3.89. That means an extra $15 per year for the owner of property – home and land – carrying an assessed value of $250,000.

White River’s M&O

White River’s official ballot wording indicates the levy would be used to “support and maintain the district’s K-12 educational programs, fund day-to-day operations, including classroom teachers, librarians, nurses, textbooks and instructional materials, athletics, arts and music programs and security.”

District Finance Director Ramona Moan reports the replacement levy, if passed, would create no additional tax burden on district property owners. The present rate is $4.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value and it’s estimated that figure would stay the same for four years.

In all districts, the numbers can fluctuate slightly as the assessed value of the entire district goes up or down.

The four-year M&O levy looks to collect $37.1 million, starting with $8.7 million the first year and $9.8 in the final year.

Enumclaw’s tech levy

The February proposal is a six-year version of a tech levy first passed in February 2009.

The ballot presented to voters says the proposition “would authorize the district to acquire and install instructional technology equipment and infrastructure, provide related staff training and make other technology improvements and upgrades.”

This current request cannot be called a “continuation” levy because the earlier levy called for tax collections in 2010 through 2013. If the technology levy passes in February, collections will be in 2015 through 2020. There will be no “tech levy” taxes collected in 2014.

The proposed rate is significantly lower than the rate approved in 2009. For the past four years, Enumclaw district property owners have been paying 39 cents per $1,000 of property value for technology. The current proposal calls for six years, each at 27 cents.

White River’s technology levy

White River is looking at a two-year technology levy, with collections in 2015 and 2016, that would collect a total of $2.1 million.

According to the ballot, the money would pay for “the acquisition of technology and related equipment, including but not limited to instructional hardware and software, infrastructure upgrades, and training to integrate new technologies into classroom instruction.”

If authorized by the voters, tech levy taxes would be collected at a rate estimated at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value each year. For the owner of a $250,000 property, that means an additional $125 annually.

White River tried once before to pass a technology levy, putting a four-year measure before district voters in the spring of 2008. That request was denied.

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