Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Local levies headed for passage

Measures first to go before voters under state legislative changes to basic education funding

 

February 15, 2018



School district administrators throughout Spokane County were breathing easier Tuesday evening as all of the educational and programs and operations levies appeared headed for passage.

That included measures in Cheney and Medical Lake districts. At press time, Cheney School District’s Proposition 1 was passing with 59.90 percent of the votes, while Medical Lake’s Proposition 1 was garnering 62.51 percent of the votes and Proposition 2 an even healthier 63.43 percent.

The three-year measures, formerly known as “maintenance and operation levies” are the first to be voted on since the state Legislature passed changes to how Washington funds its K-12 schools last summer. House Bill 2242 was the Legislature’s answer to the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2012 McCleary case that the state wasn’t doing its share of funding basic education.

Among the many changes, the state increased it’s share of the assessed property tax while reducing and limiting school districts’ taxing abilities. Like many districts, that meant a property tax increase in Cheney in 2018 as the former three-year M&O levy expired.

Those property taxes are expected to drop in 2019, at least as far as the districts are concerned. Given all of the uncertainty amid the funding changes, Cheney Superintendent Rob Roettger felt relief district property owners still recognized the value their tax dollars generate when it comes to education.

“Always grateful for community support,” he said Tuesday evening. “I never take that for granted.

In looking at the county results, Roettger also expressed relief for the passage of last year’s $54 million capital facilities bond, which will fund expansion of three district elementary schools along with expansion and renovation of Cheney High School. That relief stemmed from passage Tuesday night of Central Valley’s $129.9 million and Mead’s $114.5 million construction bonds for projects in those districts.

Cheney would likely see reduced contractor competition for its projects if it had run its bond against Central Valley’s and Mead’s. The fact one elementary school is going to bid now and two others soon means Cheney’s projects will be nearing completion before CV and Mead’s get underway.

Lydig Construction has already been named the general contractor on the high school project as the Cheney school board elected to go with the general contractor/construction manager format on that project.

Roettger said they will continue to monitor the state Legislature as it looks at additional proposals for funding basic education to make sure they understand and anticipate what impacts those might have on the district.

“You’re still trying to figure it out until you see reality,” he said. “(But) we’re in a good spot.”

Medical Lake voters seem to have navigated some general confusion on school levy matters and easily helped pass a pair of measures Tuesday night that will help raise additional funds for a variety of needs.

In Medical Lake, Proposition 1 will allow continued funding of programs such as athletics, band, transportation, school nurses and more. Residents will pay $1.50 per $1,000 in property valuation for a levy that will replace one currently in place and charging $1.95 per $1,000.

Proposition 2 will collect 40 cents per $1,000 and fund such things as safety and security improvements, upgrading roofs and floors.

“Good work from our citizens planning committee,” Superintendent Tim Ames said of the volunteer group that helped promote the measure.

Changes in state funding mechanisms authorized by the Washington State Legislature in its 2017 session no longer allow levy dollars to fund maintenance or other projects.

Priority projects outside of the security updates included replacing the cafeteria floor at the high school which will run about $100,000.

The district will collect 6 percent in the first three years, about $367,000, and 3 percent in the final three years. With the first payment not coming in until about this time next year, the district will borrow from its general fund to get a start things.

Of the 287,908 registered voters in Spokane County, 90,397 — 31.4 percent — returned their ballots. Of those, approximately 8,000 remained to be counted as of Tuesday.

Staff reporter Paul Delaney contributed to this story.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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