By Marcy Stamper
Voters in the Methow Valley School District will receive ballots within the week asking their approval of $4.5 million for improvements and repairs to school buildings and grounds and another $800,000 to purchase six school buses.
The improvements and maintenance — including new floors, a communications and emergency response system, asbestos removal, and heating and ventilation systems — would be paid off over six years.
The school-bus levy would be paid off over two years, as required by state law.
The ballot lists the anticipated changes in levy rate per $1,000 of assessed property value, which go down by 1 or 2 cents each year as interest on existing levies is paid off or the levies themselves expire. If approved, taxpayers would pay an additional 89 cents per $1,000 valuation in 2016 for the combined facilities and transportation levies — 58 cents for the facilities upgrades and 31 cents for the school buses.
The combined total would drop by 2 cents the following year. Once the transportation levy is paid off, taxpayers would be paying only for the facilities upgrades — 55 cents in 2018, which would drop to 52 cents in 2021.
The two levies are independent of each other, so voters could approve or reject both, or just one of the two.
Payment on the facilities improvements and transportation levies would add to two existing school district levies, one for maintenance and operations (M&O), and the other for capital projects and technology, both of which expire in 2016. Taxpayers are paying $1.35 per $1,000 for the M&O levy and 21 cents for the capital projects and technology levy, according to figures provided by Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.
After the levies expire, the district will seek replacement levies for both, said Venable. Maintenance and operations will be renamed programs and operations, or P&O.
As in almost all school districts around the state, the Methow Valley School District uses money raised by the M&O levy to cover basic operating expenses, since the funds received from the state pay for only three-fourths of operations, said Venable.
About 20 people worked on a task force to help the school district identify the most pressing facilities needs. Other repairs and improvements that would be paid for by this levy are a multi-use athletic field, new sidewalks, and a playground compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Independent Learning Center would get new technology equipment and furniture.
The district also plans to remove the bus barn and add heat and ventilation to the staff area in the bus-repair bays.
People can still register to vote in person, until April 20. Completed ballots must be returned to the county auditor by April 28.