Insufficient state funding for school tech, maintenance means levy needs to pass

Today, King County Elections will mail out ballots for the Vashon Island School District's expiring Technology and Facilities Capital Projects Levy.

  • Wednesday, April 6, 2016 4:30am
  • Opinion
Toby Holmes and Zabette Macomber

Toby Holmes and Zabette Macomber

Today, King County Elections will mail out ballots for the Vashon Island School District’s expiring Technology and Facilities Capital Projects Levy.

Ballots are due April 26.

This is an opportunity to renew the levy, which provides funding for preventive maintenance and major facility repairs as well as technology operations, equipment and training.

Funding for all of these necessary aspects is not provided by the state. The basic education funding provided by the state of Washington is not sufficient to fully fund our district’s operating expenses or our capital facility maintenance and technology programs. So, every four years, we ask voters to renew this funding that is critical to the continued success of our school district. And, fortunately, since 2002, Vashon has supported this renewal levy.

The levy has not increased since 2010 so, at our Feb. 23 board meeting, we approved a resolution to include an inflation factor of approximately 2 percent ($20,000) for each of the four years of this levy renewal, based on the assumption that home values will continue to increase.

The levy tax rate amounts to about 38 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. For a $460,000 home (2016 average assessed value on Vashon), the levy will cost $175 per year. As an example, a subsequent annual increase of 2 percent raises that amount by approximately $3.50.

The levy, if passed, will provide the district $3.8 million over the next four years.

As we all know, the role of technology in learning has become vital in providing our teachers with tools and resources for instruction and our students with skills that prepare them for employment and higher learning. Most of our facilities are aging, and maintenance is a priority for the district. Paying for these needs with a capital levy allows a greater portion of the general fund to be used for teachers, textbooks and co-curricular programs.

The community was just asked to vote on a bond. It did not pass. So what is the difference between a bond and a levy? Bonds are used to fund major facility upgrades like new school buildings. Levies sustain ongoing facility maintenance and technology programs.

The next question may be why Washington state doesn’t fund these things. Computer hardware, software, professional development and technical support have never been funded by the state. Unfortunately, the state provides inadequate funding for preventative maintenance and major repairs.

In fact, nearly 100 percent of the district’s annual expenditure for major repairs, improvements, preventative maintenance, technology equipment and operations is funded by this levy. The heating systems, roofs, walls, doors and floors of the district’s schools need constant maintenance. A primary focus of this levy is to continue implementation of our comprehensive preventive maintenance plan to extend the life of our facilities and equipment.

We have been so fortunate to have the support of the community in the past. Thank you.

Please join us in voting “yes” for the 2017 Technology and Facilities Capital Projects Levy.

— Zabette Macomber and Toby Holmes are serving their first terms on the Vashon Island School District board.

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