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Vashon schools levy is up for renewal

By WILL NORTH Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Columnist
January 22, 2014 · Updated 12:40 PM
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By NATALIE MARTIN

Ballots for King County’s Feb. 11 election were mailed to voters this week and include just one item for Vashon: a request to renew a four-year levy that helps fund the island’s three public schools.

The Vashon School District’s Maintenance and Operations Levy, which covers about 23 percent of the  district’s operating costs, needs a simple majority to pass. According to the school district’s website, the levy could bring in between $3.8 million and $4.3 million a year over the next four years.

According to Superintendent Michael Soltman, about 70 percent of the levy funds go to salaries. The rest is earmarked to help fund curriculum, student transportation, building maintenance and custodial services, student programs and activities and other annual budget needs.

“It’s a critical source of funding for us in terms of being able to provide the programs that we provide,” Soltman said.

The levy does not represent new taxes, he said, as property owners are currently covering a levy voters approved four years ago. If this one is passes, the current property tax rate of $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed value would rise slightly to $1.74 in 2015, something Soltman said reflects the rate of inflation and rising costs for the district. A chart with information on the levy recently included in the school district’s newsletter, Soundings, contained some incorrect numbers, but the numbers in the voters’ guide are correct.

According to those figures, a Vashon homeowner of a $450,000 house would pay between $770 and $783 a year under the levy renewal. The district could collect as much as $4.3 million from the levy by 2018, but Soltman noted that the district estimates high with its levy toals and  it almost always collects slightly less than it estimates. The most it can collect is 28 percent of what it receives from state and federal funding.

“The estimates are always more than what we’re actually going to be able to collect,” he said. “We don’t know what is going to happen four years out in terms of property values and inflation.”

Though the levy has been renewed for more than 20 years on Vashon and last year it passed by about 70 percent, the district has again formed a small campaign committee headed by former school board member John “Oz” Osborne. A group of about 15 volunteers will put out signs and write letters for support.

“I think it’s important for people to know there’s an election coming, a levy renewal,” Soltman said. “I’m optimistic we’ll continue to have good support.”

Should the levy fail, another one could be put before voters later in the year.

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