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Woodland Public Schools gives levy another try

Woodland Public Schools will soon take another crack at an operations levy, citing voter confusion as a reason for an identical levy’s failure last month.

The school board approved a resolution Monday that will place the three-year operations levy on the April 28 special election ballot, according to a school district news release. A majority of voters, 55.22 percent, rejected the previous levy Feb. 11.

But district administrators and board members say that, after conversations with residents, they discovered “confusion in the community with what the replacement levy is,” the news release states.

Primarily, district officials are stressing that it is not a new tax and would not increase the levy rate.

This year, residents pay $2.37 per $1,000 in assessed property value. The levy would cost the same amount in 2021 and is expected to drop to $2.36 per $1,000 in the ensuing two years. An owner of a $300,000 property would continue to pay $711 in taxes next year.

The levy would collect $5.4 million in 2021, $5.75 million in 2022 and $6.1 million in 2023 in an area that continues to experience population growth.

Levies pay for educational programs and services — a different function than bonds, which fund new buildings. If voters don’t approve the replacement for the current levy, which expires this year, the school district would need to cut $3 million in educational programs and services, according to the news release. That could mean elimination or cuts to 20 programs, including school bus transportation, specialized and advanced placement courses, updated textbooks and curricula, elementary school counselors and extracurricular activities.

Revenue and expenditures totaled about $37 million each for the 2018-2019 school year, according to the district’s annual report released in October. More than 80 percent of funding came from the state — just over $30 million — and the current levy generated 9.38 percent of revenue — about $3.5 million. Other revenue came from federal funding and other means.

District officials have said that the state is underfunding schools.

“Local communities must take on the role of supplying the funding their schools need for high-quality educational programs through local levies,” said Janice Watts, president of the Woodland Public Schools board. “Without community support, we will have no choice but to take dire and draconian measures, cutting the budgets of our local schools dramatically to the point where our community’s children will have access to the barest minimum in educational opportunities.”

The state recently upped the maximum amount school districts can collect from levies to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, though the Woodland school board opted for a lower figure.

“As taxpayers ourselves, the board strives to maintain fiscal responsibility and be good stewards of our community’s funds by only collecting what our schools absolutely need,” Watts said.

Between Clark and Cowlitz counties, the school district has 2,525 students, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Ballots are scheduled to be mailed April 10. Voters can register online until April 20 at voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx.

Additional information about the operations levy can be found on the district’s website or by calling the district office at 360-841-2700.


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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