M&O, technology levies will each be extended  four years

By Marcy Stamper

With all votes counted, both of the Methow Valley School District levy proposals on the Feb. 9 ballot were approved by comfortable margins, the Okanogan County Auditor’s office reported Tuesday (Feb. 16).

A proposal to replace the existing maintenance and operations (M&O) levy drew 1,257 “yes” votes (62 percent) and 773 “no” votes (38 percent).

The second proposal, to replace the existing levy to support educational technology, drew 1,216 “yes” votes (60 percent) and 816 “no” votes (40 percent).

The M&O levy will help pay for school staff; instruction in music, art, Spanish and engineering; basic maintenance; and classroom supplies. The technology levy will provide upgrades throughout the district, including computers, video-editing software, 3D printers and adaptive technology for special-education students.

The M&O levy will collect $1.8 million from taxpayers starting in 2017 and go up by $50,000 in each of the next four years, adding another $200,000 to the total collected. It will increase property taxes by $1.41 per $1,000 of valuation in 2017, rising to $1.53 in 2020.

The technology levy is for a total of $2,225,000. It will be collected in fairly equal portions over four years, from $525,000 to $575,000. That levy will increase property taxes by about 40 cents per $1,000 of valuation for four years.

Local taxpayers have been paying taxes for maintenance and operations for years, with the 2016 levy set at $1.37 per $1,000. They have also been paying for technology, at 22 cents per $1,000.

The Methow Valley was one of five school districts in the county seeking to continue their M&O levies, and all passed by large margins. The Brewster School District asked voters to approve a bond to renovate their elementary school and high school and to build a middle school, which was also approved.

Voters in Nespelem approved their M&O levy by 78 to 22 percent. In Tonasket, the levy won 63.5 to 36.5 percent; and in Oroville, 60 to 40 percent. In Bridgeport, the levy won 67 to 33 percent (although almost all ballots were cast in Douglas County and only nine in Okanogan). The Brewster bond passed 63.5 to 33.5 percent, with the majority of voters from Okanogan County and some in Douglas).

Because property values in those school districts are lower than in the Methow Valley, taxpayers will be paying considerably more — relatively speaking — to collect less money overall. Nespelem taxpayers will be paying $2.49 per $1,000 for a $36,000 levy. Bridgeport taxpayers will be paying $2 per $1,000 for a levy of about $280,000. Tonasket taxpayers will be paying $3.49 per $1,000 to raise $1.69 million. Oroville will pay $2.69 per $1,000 for $1.5 million.

As in the Methow Valley, Nespelem and Bridgeport levies will be collected over four years. The Tonasket and Oroville levies run for two years.

The two levies approved by Methow Valley voters this month are in addition to levies for facilities upgrades and new school buses that voters approved last year. The facilities levy adds 59 cents per $1,000 for six years, starting this April. The school buses add 31 cents for only two years, also starting this April.

Over the past three fiscal years, the Methow Valley district has received between 64 and 67 percent of its funding from the state, 5 to 6 percent from federal grants, and 24 to 25 percent from local levies and donations, according to the North Central Educational Service District. The remaining 4 percent comes from miscellaneous sources.

More than one-third — 134 — of the 303 school districts in Washington put M&O levies to their voters this month, and all but three were passing as of press time. That approval rate is higher than usual, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Those levies will collect almost $3.2 billion.