Nespelem School District is hoping for a good Valentine’s Day present, passage of its four-year maintenance and operations levy.
Nearly 400 voters received their mail-in ballots recently to approve a four-year levy for $118,000 in funding.
Although that’s among the very lowest levy amounts in the state, Superintendent John Adkins notes, it accounts for far more critical funds to the district than just the levy dollars themselves.
Passage of the levy would also make the district eligible for state “Local Effort Assistance” or levy equalization funds worth more than 10 times than the levy itself, but only if the Legislature does not cut those funds from the budget currently in negotiations.
Local citizens deciding to tax themselves, in other words, would bring in another $1.4 million in state levy equalization funds.
That total package amounts to more than a quarter of the district’s total budget currently.
“If we didn’t have that, I don’t even know where to begin. … I don’t know what we’d do,” Adkins said.
If property values stay the same, the replacement levy would start off at $1.15 per thousand dollars of property valuation and ends in the final year for $2.05 per thousand.
In the first year voters are asked to approve $1.15 per thousand which would bring in to the district, $25,000. That’s the minimum amount that would qualify the district to receive the maximum amount of state equalization money, Adkins said.
Eight years ago, that amount was the $13,000 the school’s current levy brings in. The school board didn’t raise the amount when it sought voter approval again four years ago, a decision that cost the district some $300,000 in state funds.
In the second year, voters would pay $1.69 per thousand and would bring in $28,000. In the third year, the district is asking $31,000 ($1.87 per thousand), and in the final year, 2016, the district is asking voters for $34,000 ($2.05 per thousand).
The total collected in the four-year levy, if approved by a simple majority of voters, would remain constant at the $118,000 total. But rates can go up or down as the total value of taxable property in the district rises and falls.
The money would be used to help fund the district’s maintenance and operations budget.
“In the 30 years I’ve been in education, levies have become so different,” Adkins noted. “It no longer just to fund the band uniforms.”
He noted the levy funds are even more important now, because federal Impact Aid has been restricted, with national government help coming in at 65-90 percent of amounts allocated.
Ballots all have to be in by Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
Okanogan County election officials stated Tuesday that they have already received 89 ballots back.