SPOKANE, Wash. — On Feb. 11, many voters in Spokane Valley will vote on levy requests from their local school district.
Both East Valley and Central Valley school districts are asking voters to approve new or continued taxes.
Voters in the East Valley district will actually see two measures on their ballots. The first is dedicated to educational programs, while the second is dedicated to infrastructure.
The programs levy would exist for the next four years, collecting between roughly $9 and $14 million each year.
That money goes to things like arts programs, after-school activities, and new textbooks and materials. In this case, it would also help hire more school security.
The infrastructure levy would last for just the next two years, collecting a little more than $3 million each time.
It would fund a redesign of school parking lots that the district says is needed for safety. It would also update plumbing and HVAC in some buildings.
How much more is this going to cost taxpayers? Essentially, it's nothing new.
The levies are effectively replacement levies. Both already exist at different rate, and are set to expire. These measures alter those rates, but the total rate will stay the same.
According to the district's finance department, the current breakdown is as follows, with dollar figures representing the amount in property tax paid per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The programs levy is at $1.50, the infrastructure levy at $1.87, and then there's another $2.85 in state school levies. That totals $6.22.
If both 2020 measures pass those rates go to $2.50 for programs, $0.90 for infrastructure, and $2.82 in state levies. That still totals $6.22.
Only one levy is being proposed on the February ballot for Central Valley, which is also one for educational programs.
As with East Valley, it would fund programs like after-school activities and more security.
This levy would only last a year and it would raise just under $12 million.
It's technically not a replacement levy. The current levy won't expire for another year. Its rate is $1.50 and the district wants voters to raise it to $2.50.
After it expires, voters could choose to replace it for four years at the same rate.
A full-dollar increase may seem like a huge jump, though to the district, it's merely an attempt to undo damage done to the budget in the wake of McCleary.
In 2015, CVSD voters approved a levy rate of $3.23.
In 2017, the Washington State Legislature capped all program levies statewide to $1.50.
In 2019, following immense pushback after a series of budget crises across the state, the legislature raised that cap to $2.50.
Now, Central Valley wants voter approval to increase their rate back up to that new cap.
Voters in both districts have approved every levy in the past decade.
Levies are often, although not always, placed on the February special election ballot. These elections have a much lower turnout and generally attract far less attention than ordinary November general elections.
That means each vote cast by Feb. 11 will have all the more significance in determining which levies pass and which fail.