Every school district in Thurston County will ask voters for a replacement levy this year in order to bridge the gap between state-funded resources and those that local tax dollars have to make up.
The following schools will seek approval by the voters of an operations levy, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office: Yelm Community Schools, Tumwater School District, Tenino School District, Rochester School District, Rainier School District, Olympia School District, North Thurston Public Schools, Griffin School District and Centralia School District.
These measures will be either approved or rejected at a special election on Feb. 11. For more information on important election dates, visit www.thurstoncountywa.gov/auditor.
Levies and bonds are two different community-based funds that provide separate roles for municipalities. Levies work to enrich the education of schools and programs, while bonds provide funding for capital projects and infrastructure.
Levy funding is crucial for many of these districts.
Yelm Community Schools will ask voters to approve a four-year replacement levy.
Yelm Superintendent Brian Wharton previously said that the current levy, which expires in December, currently makes up about 10 percent of the district’s budget.
Levy funds will be used for non-state funded programs, which include “teachers, para-educators, nurses, counselors, safety staff, special education, graduation readiness, technology, athletics and extracurricular activities,” according to pre-ballot paperwork submitted to OSPI by the district.
If approved, the levy will allow the district to collect about $45.5 million over the next four years to pay for these programs. Tax rates will also stay below 2018’s rates of $5.23 per $1,000 of assessed property value, the school district says. The levy rate will stay at $2.50 per $1,000 in all four years.
“This replacement levy is smaller in total value than the expiring one,” Wharton said in an interview with Thurston Community Media. “Our goal is that all students are on a path to graduation, continuing education and work. Levies are critical in helping students reach their potential and excel in and out of the classroom.”
If approved by voters in the Rainier School District, the replacement levy will pay for “maintenance and operations, athletics, extracurricular activities, administrative support, nursing, child nutribution services, special education, remediation programs, teachers, classified staff, counselors, librarian and CTE programs,” the district’s pre-ballot paperwork states.
“Voter-approved funding is vital to the community of Rainier, to preserve educational program and uphold a standard our community has come to value and expect,” Rainier Superintendent Bryon Bahr told Thurston Community Media in a previous interview.
If approved, the levy will allow the district to collect a little north of $8 million over the next four years.
For Rainier, levy dollars make up about 14 percent of the district’s budget, Bahr said. The new four-year replacement levy, which is $2.50 per $1,000, is about one-third smaller than the levy that ran in 2016.
For Tenino School District, levy dollars make up around 20 percent of the district’s budget, according to information posted on the district’s website.
The 2020 levy will fund the following at Parkside and Tenino Elementary Schools; art, music, robotics, library services, nursing, counseling and school safety initiatives; and the following at Tenino Middle School and Tenino High School; music, athletics, library services, nursing, honors programs, counseling, school safety initiatives and extra curriculars.
If approved, the levy will allow the school district to collect about $14.9 million over the next four years at a rate of $2.50 per $1,000 assessed property value.