You could nitpick, cavil or quibble over the list of improvements and repairs that would be paid for by two tax levies placed on the April 28 ballot by the Methow Valley School District.
But there’s no arguing that the items on the list are needs, not luxuries — and that they represent only some of the things the district’s leaders believe should be addressed.
One levy would raise $4.5 million for a variety of admittedly mundane projects — including new floors, a communications and emergency response system, and heating and ventilation systems. A separate $800,000 levy would be used to buy six new school buses.
The roster of projects was whittled down from a larger list of needs identified by the school district by a volunteer group of about 20 district residents who constituted the Facilities Task Force. Some other repairs and improvements they selected include 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.
It’s a list that’s been a while in the making. The task force began its work in earnest last year and the district intended to put the levies on the ballot in 2014, but the summer’s fires and other issues led to postponing the requests.
There was across-the-board involvement in the process, including input from the community, school staff, students and administrators. The criteria the task force used to narrow down the list were safety, the potential for long-term savings by immediate action, and the extent to which the facilities are or could be used by the public.
If one or both of the levies pass, the Facilities Task Force will continue to monitor the funded projects and report on their progress.
There has been some suggestion that the proposed list of projects needs even more review by some other group. What a waste of time that would be, after the task force — which includes broad community representation — has worked on and winnowed the list already, putting in hundreds of hours of consideration and discussion, all of it with transparency. If you think something else should be done (or not), where have you been the past year?
There is plenty of detailed information available about the proposal on the district’s website, www.methow.org, so there is no excuse for being uninformed. The district can only present information and cannot promote the levies, but a nonprofit citizen group has been formed to get the word out and urge a “yes” vote.
Take a look at the list. It’s not flimflammery. It’s nitty-gritty stuff like replacing soffits, thermostats, floors and doors, removing asbestos, repairing sidewalks and parking lots, and resurfacing the lamentably deteriorated track at Liberty Bell High School. I don’t see a lot of extravagance suggested by projects such as replacing antiquated water fountains, sinks and showers. Many of the improvements will be immediately evident; others less so but just as vital.
Yes, it’s a lot to ask of a community whose resources are usually stretched pretty tightly. But there is no one else to ask. The state still isn’t meeting its constitutionally-mandated support levels for Washington’s public schools, so even basic operational costs must be supplemented by levy requests. Capital projects also require additional taxpayer support.
And since it’s been a topic of conversation lately, the question of whether the district should adopt the International Baccalaureate plan may shape some voters’ opinion about the levies. I hope it doesn’t, because that is a separate consideration. The district’s requests are genuine, immediate and necessary to create the best possible educational atmosphere. That should be what voters are deciding whether to support or not, and the district and task force have made a convincing case for a “yes” on the levy requests.