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Grand Coulee Dam school leaders hope levy will pass next month


Local voters will soon get ballots in the mail asking them to decide on a second levy for the Grand Coulee Dam School District and may wonder why when a levy just passed last November.

The November vote will only allow the district to collect a little more than a third of the tax support voters had passed in 2015.

That was ancient history, before the “McCleary Fix” was passed by the state Legislature, which mandated reducing local levies, added an extra statewide tax, and leaving the local district with trying to partially make up for it with a second levy.

“It shifts and comes through the state’s books,” Superintendent Paul Turner told the local chamber of commerce group last Thursday. “Now (the legislators) go to the Supreme Court and say, ‘Look at all the money we are putting into education.’ … It was just a shell game.”

Taxpayers felt that extra 81 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation going directly to the state this year — before the current levy had expired. That means even if next month’s levy passes, they’ll be paying less.

If it passes in February, the district will still be hoping for a new fix from the Legislature that would help districts, hurt by the overall solution to the state Supreme Court’s ruling, to fully fund basic education without relying on local levies, usually called “maintenance-and-operation” levies.

Next month’s new “enrichment” levy would only partially restore the funds cut from local schools under the McCleary legislation. Together with the “capital levy” passed in November, the district still figures it will be about $600,000 short, Turner said.

The good news for taxpayers, however, is that the taxes collected on the two local levies, plus the state’s new tax, will still be less than what was collected under the old system.

Instead of collecting just over $4 per thousand, the school district will collect about $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation with the levy passed last November, plus $1.50 under next month’s enrichment levy, designed to take in dollar amounts of $422,577 in 2019, $475,000 in 2020, $503,500 in 2021, and $533,710 in 2022. The increase each year factors in an estimated 8-percent increase in property value each year.

The special election day is Feb. 12. Ballots must be mailed from Jan. 23-25.

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