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Voters asked to renew school levy

Ballots will be mailed out next week for Islanders to vote on the renewal of Vashon Island School District’s Technology and Capital Projects Levy, which would collect $3.6 million from property owners over the next four years.

The measure requires a simple majority, or 50 percent approval, to pass.

Superintendent Michael Soltman said that the continuation of the levy — which has been collected on Vashon for nine years — is critical to Vashon schools, especially as they brace for additional cuts in state funding.

The state requires that schools use and provide students with certain technology, Soltman said, yet it has never provided the necessary funds. Most school districts opt to cover technology costs with money from local levies, he said.

About two-thirds of the $900,000 collected annually by the levy goes toward technology — computers, software and networks — and about one-third of the funds covers repairs and maintenance projects Soltman said were considered essential.

For example, he said, last year levy funds were used to purchase new desks and lunch tables for McMurray Middle School. Next year the district would like to replace windows at McMurray and perform upgrades at school gyms.

The levy also funds nearly four full-time employees in the school district’s maintenance and technology departments.

“If this levy failed, we essentially wouldn’t have the funding to pay for any of the technology and any of the preventative maintenance,” Soltman said.

The levy has been in place since at least 2002, with the exception of 2008 and 2009; neither Soltman nor board members knew why the levy wasn’t collected for those two years.

The district upped the amount collected in 2006 from $750,00 to $1.24 million. It then collected $900,000 in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Soltman said the school board, which approved the measure at its Dec. 15 meeting, felt $900,000 was still sufficient for the district’s needs. He noted that the $47.7 million bond voters approved in 2010 included funds to upgrade the district-wide computer network.

“We’re able to use some of the bond funds for that, so it didn’t requires us to increase the levy,” he said.

The deadline for submitting ballots in the mail-in election is Feb. 14.

The new levy, which would replace the current levy in 2013, would continue to collect 39 cents per $1,000 of a property owner’s assessed value. The school district estimates that the owner of a home assessed at $414,000 would pay about $160 annually.

Soltman said he believes the levy will pass, as it is simply a renewal — homeowners won’t see a change in their taxes — and the community understands how important the funds are. A statement in support of the levy for the voter’s pamphlet was written by community activists Hilary Emmer and May Gerstle. No one stepped forward to write a statement against the measure.

“I’m optimistic that it will continue to have that support,” Soltman said.

 

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