River View students seek support for school levy

FINLEY — Jorden Cox plays football, baseball and basketball at River View High School in Finley.

The 17-year-old said playing sports has made his school experience better and that many of his classmates feel the same way.

That's why Cox wants voters to approve the school district's two-year maintenance and operations levy that's on the ballot Feb. 9 -- because it would help maintain athletics and other student activities.

"We are a small school. The levy helps pay for athletic programs. Those programs are mostly what the community rallies around," he said. "The kids in Finley don't have the money to pay to play. The levy supports kids so they don't have to do that."

Cox and some fellow River View seniors and school district leaders visited the Herald's editorial board Friday to talk about the measure.

Finley is one of several school districts in the Mid-Columbia that's running a two-year maintenance and operations levy in the election to replace a current levy that's expiring at the end of the year.

Levies help districts pay for daily operating expenses that aren't fully covered by the state.

The Finley levy would collect $1.4 million in 2011 at an estimated rate of $3.76 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That rate is a cent less than what homeowners are projected to pay this year under the current levy that's expiring.

In 2012, the levy would collect $1.45 million at an estimated $3.78 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The school district also qualifies for levy equalization money from the state if the levy passes. Levy equalization is given to less affluent districts to make up for low property valuations.

In Finley, the property tax revenue generated by the levy combined with levy equalization makes up 20 percent of the budget.

The district is facing cuts from the state, which makes the levy dollars even more critical, said Superintendent Suzanne Feeney.

"Levies maintain our programs. It's an important piece to us. If we lose our levy, it's going to be devastating," she said.

The state Legislature in the last session already made sweeping reductions to K-12 education and other programs to help balance a mounting deficit for the 2009-11 biennium.

More cuts are expected in the upcoming session, which starts Jan. 11. Levy equalization is one of the items that could be on the chopping block, along with money to shrink class sizes and run all-day kindergarten.

Ballots will be mailed Jan. 20.

The Finley district uses levy money to pay for sports programs and to help with costs such as transportation, food service, staffing and curriculum, according to information from the district.

More levy information is on the district's website at www. finleysd.org.