Richland, Pasco districts approve levy amounts

By Jacques Von Lunen, Tri-City HeraldDecember 14, 2011 

Tri-City voters will be asked to show their school districts some love next Valentine's Day.

The three big school districts' operations tax levies are up for renewal in the Feb. 14 election.

The Richland and Pasco school boards Tuesday set the amounts they will put before voters. The Kennewick School Board is scheduled to vote on a levy resolution at tonight's meeting.

Ballots go out to voters around Jan. 26.

These taxes pay for operations of existing schools, including substitute teachers, fuel for buses and textbooks, for example.

The Richland School District is asking for nearly $19.8 million in 2013 and nearly $21 million in 2014.

During the 2010 election, voters approved collecting $17.3 million this year and $18.3 million in 2012.

Districts do not set tax rates; they only ask for total amounts. Current projections by the county assessor show that those amounts would result in a tax rate of $3.14 per $1,000 of home value, or $314 for a $100,000 home, said district spokesman Steve Aagaard.

The previously approved property tax rate for 2012 is expected to be $3.09, or $309 for a $100,000 home.

Levy money makes up about 17 percent of the district's budget, Aagaard said.

The district tried to keep the levy as low as possible, while maintaining the same services for kids in the face of ongoing state budget cuts, said Rick Jansons, president of the board.

Pasco proposes to levy $20.1 million in 2013 and $20.3 million in 2014. In 2010, voters approved collecting $18.45 million this year and $19 million in 2012.

The proposed levy is expected to result in a tax rate of $4.51 per $1,000 of home value, or $451 for a $100,000 home.

That is 4 cents lower than the current rate, Superintendent Saundra Hill told the board in a presentation at a November meeting.

All three districts had delayed voting on levy resolutions until this week. In past years, they had decided on levy amounts in November, well ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline to turn in ballot measures to the state.

But this year uncertainty about state budgets forced the delays. State legislators convened for a special session this month, during which they were expected to decide on more cuts to school budgets.

Districts hoped to know before this week's votes how much money they will get in the next biennium.

But legislators had not reached a decision on the major cuts and district officials had to set the levy amounts without knowing if they would still receive levy equalization money from the state, which is worth millions of dollars to districts with relatively low property values.

The Kennewick School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the administration building, 1000 W. Fourth Ave.

-- Jacques Von Lunen: 582-1402; jvonlunen@tricityherald.com

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