By SVERRE BAKKE
The White Salmon Valley School District will submit its largest-ever maintenance and operations levy request to voters in February.
Moreover, in keeping with a state law approved last fall by voters, the outcome of the local school tax election will be decided like most elections: By a majority of the voters who take part in the Feb. 19 special election.
The school district will ask its voters to approve a two-year property assessment of $1.99 million in the first year (to be collected for the 2009-10 school year) and $2.055 million in the second to be for the 2010-11 school year).
Information provided by the school district states the proposed two-year levy would replace the one that expires at the end of this year, at a cost to taxpayers of $1.68 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in year one and $1.69 per $1,000 in year two. (Levy funds are used to make up the difference between what the state is mandated to pay for and what it actually costs to run a school district.)
Dale Palmer, superintendent of White Salmon schools, said the first-year request is $315,000 more than this year's levy, an increase he attributed partly to rising costs. (The levy calls for $50,000 per year to cover inflation.)
In year two, the request includes an additional $65,000 to offset the loss of state levy equalization funding. After 2009-10, the district will not be eligible to apply for those state funds.
"And that's because, according to the state, we are no longer a property-poor district," Palmer explained.
The proposed two-year levy would provide funding for, among many things:
New mathematics textbooks ($50,000/year);
An additional full-time math instructor at Columbia High School to teach the upper-level subjects state education officials say all students must know ($65,000/year);
Building repairs and grounds maintenance (a combined $73,000/year, including $18,000 per for a half-time groundskeeper in the maintenance department);
New student desks and furniture ($22,500/year);
New kitchen equipment ($10,000/year).
Palmer said the investments in curriculum development, particularly in the area of mathematics instruction, will come in response to mandates the district expects the state education bureaucracy to hand down later this year.
"The state is looking at new math standards for students in K-12," Palmer noted. "We're anticipating it will adopt those standards and, as a result, we'll have to purchase new textbooks for all three schools, just as we did a few years ago."
He added: "It's a big expense, and the state won't pay for it -- even though it says we have to do this -- so we have to turn to our voters.
Currently, the White Salmon Valley School District has 4,216 registered voters, according to figures provided by elections officials in Klickitat and Skamania counties. Their ballots for the vote-by-mail special election will be mailed on Feb. 1.
Klickitat County Auditor Brenda Sorensen said new registrations may be added to the voter roll up to 15 days prior to the election for in-person registrations (by Feb. 4 for this election). The 15-day period, however, is only for individuals who presently are not registered to vote in Washington, Sorensen noted.
Unregistered district patrons who live in Klickitat County and want to participate in the Feb. 19 special election can register in the Auditor's Office, Room 205, county courthouse, in Goldendale. Those in the Skamania County can go to their Auditor's Office, county courthouse, in Stevenson.