Last winter, the Selah School District finally passed a massive bond project to finance the construction of a new middle school, as well as upgrades to other district buildings.
But the bond is only for construction, and the district will be running a replacement maintenance and operations levy in the February special election to pay for everyday school operations.
The district’s proposed three-year M&O levy would collect a tax rate of $3.71 per $1,000 of assessed property tax value, or $371 for a $100,000 home, same as the current levy. It aims to collect about $5 million, or 16 percent of the district’s $31 million operating budget.
Factor in $1.7 million in Levy Equalization Assistance (LEA) funds from the state match program, which helps property-poor districts make up for low returns on school levies, and levy funds make up 21 percent of the district’s operating budget.
“Although we did pass a bond last year, those aren’t something you do on an everyday basis,” said superintendent Shane Backlund. “A levy is part of your operational budget because the state doesn’t fully fund education.”
More than half of Selah’s levy money goes toward student educational support, such as classroom support staff, instructional materials, gifted programs and classroom supplies.
The levy also pays for 100 percent of the district’s technology costs, as well as 94 percent of student extracurricular activities like sports.
Backlund is concerned that voters are coming off an “election fatigue,” and may not be clear on the difference between last year’s bond and this year’s levy.
“We are very, very appreciative still of what the voters did for us last February by passing the bond,” he said, calling it a “monumental accomplishment” for Selah. The district breaks ground on the new high school addition in April, and on the new middle school in August.
“Hopefully, down the road, the state comes through with a plan that fully funds education and we don’t have to rely on M&O levies like we do now,” Backlund said.