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A pair of Tahoma school levies will go to district voters next month

The Tahoma School Board approved placing a maintenance and operation levy and a technology levy on the Feb. 11 special election ballot at the Dec. 17 meeting.

The two new levies would go into effect in 2015, replacing the current maintenance and operations and technology levies that are set to expire at the end of this year.

“The timing is unfortunate,” district spokesman Kevin Patterson said of the proximity of the levy request to the school bond that was approved by voters in November. “We need to pass these levies to continue doing what we’re doing.”

Patterson explained that the bond measure is strictly for building a new Tahoma High School, remodeling other schools and other maintenance projects that have been termed warm, safe and dry projects. Levies pay for daily operations which are not fully funded by the state and the district’s technology needs which are also not paid for by the state.

Levies require a 50 percent yes vote to be approved and there is no minimum number of voters who need to cast their ballots for a yes vote to stand.

The proposed technology levy would collect $2.7 million per year through 2018, which is $50,000 less than the current levy. Patterson attributed the decrease to the district’s technology infrastructure already being in place and to the decreasing cost of technology.

“Our philosophy,” Patterson said, “ is the technology tools reflect our education. We buy them to help kids in classrooms.”

Patterson also explained that the district is moving towards a one-to-one technology model in classrooms, but doesn’t have plans to give every student a laptop or other piece of technology that they can take home every day. Patterson explained that in their research of the community they have found that most students have access to the internet and technology tools at home and so the district wants to focus on how to use technology in the classroom. Patterson said that the dollars also go towards training teachers on how to effectively use the technology tools available to them and on maintaining equipment.

As for how they are targeting different grade levels with the one to one approach, Walt Szklarski, the district’s instructional technology coordinator, gave the example of how kindergarten classes have received iPads.

“We’ve targeted kindergarten with iPads because there are so many great applications,” Szklarski said.

Another example is the move to one to one in the core subjects of language arts, social studies, and science in grades six through 12 that the district wants to do if the new levy is approved.

Szklarski also said that the district’s goal is a two-to-one ratio in all other classes.

“We want to use the computers for more innovative learning,” Szklarski said.

The estimated cost to property owners for the technology levy is 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2015.

The proposed maintenance and operations levy would make up 20 percent of the district’s general fund.

Patterson explained that districts use maintenance and operations levy funds to fill the gap left to a shortage in state funding.

Patterson said approximately 69 percent of the district’s general fund comes from the state and the other approximately 11 percent comes from grants and federal sources.

The board decided to maintain the 2014 property tax rate of $3.69 per $1,000 of assessed value. At that rate the district estimates that in 2015 it would collect $16.34 million, $16.99 million in 2016, $17.67 million in 2017, and $18.38 in 2018.

Patterson said he has researched the district’s levy history back to 1976 and during that time the district has never had a double levy failure – that is, failed two consecutive attempts at passing a levy in the same year, the limit allowed by the state.

The district has, Patterson said, had levies fail on the first try but on the second try they have always been passed.

The other question related to these levies involves the McCleary decision, in which the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 the state was not fulfilling it’s constitutional duty to fully fund public education.

Patterson said that if the state increases it’s funding of schools in years ahead then, “our suspicion is that the state will change levy authority and will change how much the district will collect.”

Patterson went on to explain that in that case the district would draw down how much it was collecting via the levies.

To read more about the district’s technology plan visit tahomasd.us and select “Departments” from the drop down menu and then select “Technology”.

 

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