Rheagan Sparks and Spring Hecht (Courtesy Photos).

Rheagan Sparks and Spring Hecht (Courtesy Photos).

Approval of cap/tech levy critical to school district operations

It will ensure adequate funding to maintain existing programs and services for the next four years.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2020 1:38pm
  • Opinion

Ballots for the 2020 VISD Capital and Technology Levy renewal have been mailed to your home and should be returned to the elections office by Tuesday, Feb. 11, the date of the special election.

Vashon voters have a long history of supporting our schools through similar levy propositions and renewals since the early 2000s. Our community expects excellence in education and demands high-quality instruction and services well beyond the basic level funded via state allocation. As school board leaders, we passionately accept the charge of our community to uphold a high standard of stewardship so that our tax dollars effectively deliver the education you expect and our children deserve.

Every four years, our district proposes this “Capital and Technology Levy” to the voters. The levy represents nearly 6.2% of our total operating budget or, for 2020, approximately $1.5 million of a $24 million operating budget. The school district’s levy renewal, known as Proposition 1, is not a new tax — it is a replacement of the levy approved in 2016. The proposed levy rate is estimated to be $.43 per $1,000 of assessed home value for each of the next four years. Exemptions from taxes may be available to homeowners who are 61 or older or disabled, and who meet certain income requirements. For more information, call the King County Department of Assessments at 206-296-3920.

By now, many islanders are familiar with the McCleary case in which the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state has not met its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. When lawmakers passed SHB 2242 in 2017, additional state funding was raised through property taxes. However, it is now clear that the legislation still falls short of meeting the court’s requirements for equitable public school funding.

Important services for our student’s success, including counseling, mental health support, special education, technology services and facility maintenance, continue to be dramatically underfunded compared to the actual need and associated costs. This reality leaves school districts in our state, including VISD, more dependent than ever upon local levy support from their communities.

VISD has an ongoing dialogue with our state representatives, particularly Sen. Joe Nguyen, who is one of our island’s elected representatives to the Legislature. However, we have little expectation of any forthcoming adjustment to our regionalization factor or our allocation calculation contemplated by the state’s prototypical school model. The current legislative session is expected to be dominated by mental health needs and there is a high fatigue level amongst legislators when it comes to public school funding. Therefore, we are among over 100 school districts across the state that have proposals on the ballot for Feb. 11 to ensure adequate current funding to maintain existing programs and services for the next four years.

Levy renewal enables VISD to preserve facility assets and stay current with rapidly changing educational technology demands. IT infrastructure provides critical support for students and teachers. Under our now expiring cap/tech levy, the district-wide wireless network was updated. Renewing the levy allows the district to purchase necessary hardware upgrades, next-generation classroom projection, software licenses and enhance network infrastructure to ensure our students are competitive academically. Building security enhancements will include interior and exterior cameras for VHS and the Student Link building — helping to keep our students safe.

In terms of facility management, the expiring levy provided energy-efficient LED lighting in all three gyms — including the Chautauqua Elementary School covered play area — and enabled crucial preventive maintenance on building mechanical systems. Urgent repairs to the heat pump and surge protection are now needed at VHS and will be funded by the levy renewal. The next levy will also provide replacement carpet at Chautauqua, resealing of exterior brick at McMurray and repainting for the three main school buildings.

Voting “Yes” for the Capital and Technology Levy preserves funding in our general budget that also supports recruiting and retaining highly qualified teaching staff. The financial stability the levy provides ensures resources for ongoing professional development and training that enhance job satisfaction and the quality and strength of instruction in our classrooms.

Our schools are a source of pride for our community and are often identified as a primary reason for locating here on Vashon and nearby. As board members, we take our responsibility to provide great public education on Vashon very seriously. We welcome your questions, ideas and concerns. Information about the history of our levy, the current levy proposal and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the district’s website and at yesforvashonkids.com. We ask for your continued support for our island students and public schools by marking your ballot “Yes” by Feb. 11. Thank you!

Rheagan Sparks and Spring Hecht are members of the Vashon Island School District Board.

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