Even though it’s a short month, February can seem long. Schedules are lighter than usual, the weather can’t decide if it’s winter or spring, daylight hours are longer and people are looking for things to do.
Well, we have an activity you all should do: Vote!
The Feb. 13 special election is all about schools. If you’ve already voted, great. If not, please dig out that ballot and cast your vote.
From Prosser to Washtucna there are school levies on the ballot. Many are replacement levies, which means they are measures previously approved and are up for renewal. Richland and Kennewick have additional levies for instructional technology improvements to help student learning.
It’s widely understood that strong education systems make strong communities.
It seems to us that school district officials are making reasonable requests. Even though lawmakers are still finalizing school funding issues at the state level, we know local support is needed to keep many student programs going.
Voting to approve school levies is the right thing to do for our region. Yes, it’s an expense to homeowners, but what’s being asked won’t be a blip on the radar for many.
Take a look at your ballot for the details of your district’s request. In Richland the levy renewal is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value for four years. The money will allow for the continuation of essential programs not fully paid for by the state.
Changes to state regulations require the educational services levy and the technology levy to be split. The two levies combined would be $2 per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s less than the current rate of $3.44, according to the district’s website.
In fact, new state limits on local levies will see tax rates drop in many districts.
In Kennewick, for example, if both the educational and technology levies pass, homeowners will see tax rates drop from $3.37 to $2 per $1,000.
For Pasco voters, don’t be confused by an experimental mailer from a citizens group. The group supports the levy and so do we. The levy also pays for activities not funded by the state — like art, music and athletics. Without voter approval, those programs likely won’t happen.
In Columbia-Burbank, they are gambling that the state will delay or revoke the levy cap, brought on by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision that said our state is failing to fund basic education and putting to much pressure on districts and local levies.
Columbia-Burbank is being cautious, asking for $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed value in case the state allows the school district to keep its tax rate the same. If the state cap remains in place, the school district will still only collect the maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value.
So get your vote in. Our community deserves the best when it comes to our education system.
Ballots are due Feb. 13. They must be postmarked, returned to the county auditor or left in an official drop box by then.