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Super explains how levy would keep school moving forward

 


Paul Turner has a goal: to make Lake Roosevelt Schools a bit of a worry to neighboring school districts because it’s where students want to be.

But a kink got thrown into the plans to keep the Grand Coulee Dam School District, of which Turner is superintendent, moving forward financially, he told groups in public meetings last week, seeking to explain the proposed fix.

When the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in a case known as “McCleary” that the Legislature wasn’t fully funding basic education as required by the state’s constitution, it set in motion years of wrangling in the Legislature.

The solution emerged last summer after two special sessions. It was good for some districts, not good for others, including Grand Coulee Dam, Turner says. And it will cost his district about $400,000 a year.

Now, just as property owners are temporarily paying more school taxes that go directly to the state, the school district is hoping voters will pass a measure that will, as he says, keep the district moving forward and restore funding to the same level local voters approved in their last vote.

Turner spoke to Grand Coulee Dam Rotary Club last Wednesday and the chamber of commerce the next day. He’s looking for more groups to tell the story to.

Districts that have a good tax base will do fine under the new law, which re-arranges property taxes, taking some from local districts, then redistributing it, Turner explained. The extra 81 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value that people noticed on their property tax bills this year did not go to their local districts, Turner said; it went directly to the state, temporarily increasing local taxes until the current levy that voters last approved runs out next year. At that point, the new law will limit districts to a top maintenance and operations levy rate of $1.50.

Turner emphasized that the new “capital projects levy” would bring local taxes back to their former level, $4.01 per thousand, or $401 on a $100,000 house.

The money would go initially to fix safety and security concerns, including updated cameras in buses to help staff address bullying, and to a modern communications system that would link district buildings.

“For example, if the fire alarm got pulled in the gym, somebody would have to phone over to the school to let them know,” Turner said. “So we’ve got some major safety issues that we’ve got to fix.”

After those concerns are met, the capital projects levy could be used for technology updates the district currently takes from its general fund. Turner said that would free up about half the money lost to the Legislature’s McCleary fix, about $200,000.

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