By Marcy Stamper
Levies for facilities improvements and new school buses for the Methow Valley School District were approved by voters by comfortable margins in last week’s election.
Almost 55 percent of voters supported $4.5 million for improvements and repairs to school buildings and grounds, and 56.5 percent approved spending $800,000 to purchase six school buses.
Virtually all the ballots have been counted, according to Mila Jury, chief deputy auditor for the county. About 2,000 voters in the school district cast a vote. The election will be certified on May 12.
The funds for the improvements will not start being collected until next year’s property taxes are paid in April. The school district’s Facilities Task Force will now look at the items on the list to develop a sequence for the projects, with priority given to health and safety issues, said Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.
Among the needs identified by the task force are new floors, a communications and emergency response system, asbestos removal, and heating and ventilation systems. The district will also put in new sidewalks, add a playground compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and repair the cracked tennis courts. The Independent Learning Center is on the list for new technology equipment and furniture. The projects will be paid off over six years.
The school buses will be purchased over two years, starting in 2016. Transportation levies run for two years, as required by state law.
The widest support for the maintenance and facilities upgrades came from the Pearrygin Lake, Patterson Lake and Wolf Creek precincts, where three-quarters of voters favored the measure. About two-thirds of the voters in the Lewis Butte, Mazama and Edelweiss precincts also said “yes.” Voters in the Leecher Mountain, Libby Creek, Poorman Creek, Twisp Rural and Carlton precincts were among those who rejected the measure, by about a two-thirds margin.
The school buses drew somewhat greater support overall — 38 more votes. The widest support for buses came from the same precincts, in a slightly different order. Most precincts that rejected the facilities upgrades also voted against the school bus levy.
Taxpayers will pay an additional 89 cents per $1,000 property valuation starting in 2016 for the combined facilities and transportation levies — 58 cents for the facilities upgrades and 31 cents for the school buses.
After the school bus levy is paid off in 2018, taxpayers will be paying 55 cents per $1,000 valuation, which will drop to 52 cents in 2021.