Waterville School to hold levies in February

By Tabatha Mires
Guest columnist

On Feb. 12, Waterville School will ask our voters to approve two important levies for Waterville students. These levies are needed to ensure we can continue to provide programs and facilities that our students need and deserve.

The State of Washington has drastically decreased schools’ abilities throughout the state to raise funds through local levies. In Waterville, we have been blessed to have wide community support for our school and our students. Over the years our M&O levies have ensured Waterville students continue to receive the programs, services and staffing needed for us to cultivate leaders who thrive. This support allowed us to collect levies in the following amounts over the past few years:

? 2017-18 Levy and Levy (M&O) Equalization Dollars Collected by Waterville: $934,000

? 2018-19 Estimated Levy and Levy (EP&O) Equalization Dollars Collected by Waterville: $601,710

Beginning in 2019, schools in Washington are limited to taxing in local levies at rates of only $1.50 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. This new levy is called an EP&O (Educational Programs & Operations) levy rather than the previous term M&O (Maintenance & Operations) levy. This new state law and changed levy format has had dramatic effects on schools in our region, none more impactful than in Waterville. Here we will see our local funding, voted by our own taxpayers, drastically reduced. In response to these funding cuts and decreased enrollment, Waterville School made cuts in classified staff, certified staff, administrative staff and programs for the 2018-19 school year in order to balance our budget. The cuts of over $300,000 from the 2017-18 to 2018-19 school year will be followed by a need to cut another $200,000 in levy dollars for the upcoming school year because of these new state regulations.

? 2019-20 Estimated Levy (EP&O) and Additional State Levy Dollars Proposed by Waterville: $396,750

You may have heard that the state Legislature has provided additional funding to schools to supplement this change in local levies. This is true. At Waterville, the money we received from the Legislature was passed on in the form of salaries as required by new legislation. These salaries meet the newly state mandated revised salary minimums. Our classified staff salaries have also been revised to respond to increasing minimum wage rates in Washington. Our staff has always kept the needs of our students first. When all the money was distributed to Waterville, this new money left us about $24 per student of additional MSOC funds at Waterville to provide programs for our students. The decrease in local levy was far greater than this increase in state dollars. The outcome is that Waterville School will be forced to continue making cuts based on state regulations. Changes in state law have put Waterville School behind the 8-ball.

In February, we ask the voters in Waterville to again show their support for our students and school in these very trying times. We will ask for the maximum amount allowed by Washington State law, $1.50 per thousand in our Educational Programs & Operations levy. This money will not be used to provide the extras, the fluff. Instead, these local dollars will be needed to pay for utilities, run our food service program, purchase needed curriculum, and provide money for basic maintenance and operations at Waterville. If approved, the State of Washington will provide an additional approximately $45,000 in funding to our school.

You as voters will also be asked to consider a second item on the ballot in February. As our funding is cut due to state law, we also face the challenge of continuing to provide a safe, secure, well maintained facility. With these tremendous cuts to levy dollars, it will be more difficult than ever to continue the facility projects that we as a school must undertake to ensure the learning environment at our school is one that is safe and well maintained for our students. Waterville School’s main building is 25 years old. Our Rejniak Building is even older. In order to maintain and improve these facilities we are asking our voters to approve a Capital Projects Levy. This second levy will include projects like upgrading our intercom system, safety upgrades to entrances, replacing asphalt and concrete as needed around our buildings, improving classrooms and facilities by repainting and re-carpeting, and more. This levy is a two-year levy and will be at a tax rate of approximately $1.00 per thousand.

If Waterville School passes both items on the levy, our school will still see a decrease in funding of over $1.50 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation from the levy amount in the 2017-18 school year. Taxpayers will pay less taxes with both levies than they did in 2018. These levies will allow us to maintain our school facilities and provide the education our students deserve.

Waterville School’s mission of “Cultivating Leaders Who Thrive” is not possible without the support of our taxpayers. We thank you for your support over past levies and ask you to continue supporting the students of Waterville through passing these two levies in February.

Please contact me at 745-8585 with any questions.

 

Tabatha Mires is superintendent of Waterville Schools.