Levy special election ballots are due Tuesday

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 10, 2014 

ballot drop kennewick vote democracy in action

Ron Louderback of Kennewick drops his ballot off on Tuesday at the Benton County Auditor's Annex on 5600 W. Canal Dr. in Kennewick. You have until 8 p.m. to drop off ballots in person and ballots need to be postmarked by Tuesday to count.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Find dropbox locations

Benton County: http://bentonelections.com/Ballot_Drop_Box_Locations.html

Franklin County: https://wei.sos.wa.gov/county/franklin/en/Elections/CurrentElection/Pages/BallotDropBoxes.aspx

The clock is ticking to turn in your ballot for Tuesday’s special election on school levies.

Election officials gave mixed views on whether voter turnout will be high.

Nine school districts in Benton and Franklin counties are asking voters to renew their maintenance and operations, or M&O, levies.

About a quarter of all ballots sent to the roughly 120,000 registered voters in both counties had been returned to auditors’ offices as of Thursday afternoon.

Benton County election officials are expecting about 40 percent of all ballots to be turned in by the time the dropboxes close at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“Actually, I’m really pleased with the turnout,” said Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton. “Twenty-four percent at this point is pretty good.”

However, Franklin County Auditor Matt Beaton said the single-issue nature of February special elections generally means most interested voters have already turned in ballots, meaning Franklin County’s turnout could be 35 percent.

“Vote it, sign it, send it,” he said. “Just get (your ballot) in.”

M&O levies are used by most Washington school districts to fill the gap for school programs and activities not covered by state money.

That generally means things such as school nurses and counselors, art and athletic programs and building maintenance are partially covered by levies.

Most Mid-Columbia districts seek levy renewals every two years, though a few are seeking four-year levies.

The districts have issued estimated tax rates for each levy but those rates can change if assessed property values fluctuate.

Voters can drop their ballot off in an official dropbox in several locations in each county or at their respective auditors office. They can also be mailed but must be postmarked no later than Tuesday. Election officials recommended people finishing their ballot on Tuesday place it in a dropbox rather than a mailbox because of recent changes to when mail is postmarked.

Here’s a rundown of the levies on the ballot in each county:

Benton County

w Kennewick School District is asking for $23.9 million in 2015 and $24.5 million in 2016 in its renewal levy.

The total collected by the district would be a combined total of $3 million more than the current two-year levy. The property tax rate is estimated to be $3.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s $345 a year for a home assessed at $100,000.

w Richland School District’s levy will collect $22 million in 2015 and $23 million in 2016 if approved by voters. The rate is expected to be $3.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $324 a year for a $100,000 home.

That’s expected to bring in a combined total of about $4.3 million more than the current levy.

w The Prosser School District is one of the few districts in the region seeking a four-year renewal levy. It would collect $3.9 million in 2015, $4 million in 2016 , $4.1 million in 2017 and $4.2 million in 2018 if it is approved by voters.

The estimated tax rate for each year of the renewal would be $3 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $300 a year on a $100,000 home.

w Finley school officials are seeking $1.8 million in 2015 and $1.85 million from the renewal levy. The estimated tax rate would be $4.15 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2015 and $4.18 in 2016.

That’s about $415 a year for a $100,000 home the first year.

w Grandview School District, which serves a small portion of Benton County, is also seeking a four-year renewal levy. It would collect $1.34 million in 2015, $1.4 million in 2016, $1.5 million in 2017 and $1.6 million in 2018 if approved by voters.

Estimated tax rates would increase each year of the levy. The 2015 tax rate is expected to be $1.88 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $188 a year for a $100,000 home.

And the rate would grow to about $2.11 per $1,000 by the final year of the levy.

Franklin County

w The Pasco School District would collect $21.7 million in 2015 and $22.2 million in 2016. That’s a combined total of about $3.5 million more than the district’s current levy.

The estimated tax rate both year would be $4.51 per $1,000 in assessed property value. That’s $450 per year for a home assessed at $100,000.

w North Franklin school officials are asking voters for $1.98 million in 2015 and $2.1 million in 2016 in a renewal levy. The estimated tax rate both years would be $2.24 per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $224 a year for a $100,000 home.

w Kahlotus School District is asking for $75,000 in 2015 and 2016 from voters. If approved, the estimated tax rate is set at $1.62 per $1,000 in assessed property value the first year, or $162 a year for a $100,000 home.

The rate would drop to about $1.59 for the last year of the levy.

w Washtucna School District, which serves a small portion of northeastern Franklin County, is asking for $150,000 in 2015 and 2016 from voters. The estimated tax rate would be $3.37 per $1,000 in assessed property value if the levy is approved. That would cost $337 a year for a $100,000 home.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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