Three North County school districts have put forth ballot measures seeking voter-approved funding for this month’s special election, ranging from enhancement levies affected by changes in school funding to a construction bond that would see another elementary school built for Ridgefield.
La Center levy
The La Center School District is looking for voter approval on an enrichment levy that will replace the current maintenance and operations levy with the rate being lower than currently due to changes in state law.
The levy will raise close to $7.8 million over three years beginning in 2020 and will result in a projected rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value (AV) on homeowners in the district.
According to information from the district, the current levy rate is $2.58 per $1,000 of assessed value, leading to a more than $1 drop in rates should the levy pass by a majority vote. As part of the work by the state legislature to fully fund K-12 education in accordance to the McCleary court case, lawmakers increased the state levy rate while capping the amount districts can raise locally at that $1.50 per $1,000 figure.
The levy “fills the gap between what state and federal governments provide and local patrons expect,” according to district information. Uses listed include curriculum adoption, staff development, facilities maintenance, utility costs and extracurricular activities among others.
Hockinson Replacement levy
The “Replacement School Programs & Operations Levy” is listed as a partial replacement as the district is in a similar situation as La Center.
If approved, Hockinson’s proposed replacement levy would run from 2020 through 2022.
District staff estimate that the replacement levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 AV will collect $9 million total: $2,685,000 in 2020, $3,005,000 in 2021 and $3,335,000 in 2022.
According to district staff, the replacement levy would fund athletics and academic extracurricular activities (which the state does not provide funding for), help fund transportation, special education, and extra staffing.
Hockinson technology levy
The second, a capital levy, would be used to update the district’s instructional technology and to complete other projects, according to district staff.
If it gets the nod from voters, this levy would collect $800,000 per year for three years. District staff estimates show $0.45 per $1,000 AV in 2020, $0.40 per $1,000 AV in 2021, and $0.36 per $1,000 AV in 2022.
The Ridgefield School District will put forth another capital facilities bond nearly two years to the day after successfully asking voters for a similar funding push of close to the same amount.
The district has put a $77 million bond on the Feb. 12 ballot. The funds would be used along with about $15 million in state assistance to construct a new elementary school, expand Ridgefield High School and construct covered play areas at the new and existing elementaries, among other projects.
The district has framed the bond in comparison to what homeowners paid in taxes in 2018 following increases to school funding through the McCleary decision, saying that if the bond were approved the tax rate would only raise to 9 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
However, according to Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick, The bond itself would look more like $1.06 per $1,000 of assessed value, though the reduction in taxes due to the $1.50 levy cap and other changes in assessed value could lessen its impact.
The district is planning to use bond funds for the following improvements:
•A new K-4 elementary school
•A full renovation and modernization the vocational education building at Ridgefield High School
•A new classroom wing at Ridgefield High School
•Covered play areas at all elementary schools
•New HVAC systems at elementary schools
•Safety and security enhancements at all facilities in the district
The bond is for the third of at least four phases of district expansion in an effort to keep up with Ridgefield’s growth. In 2017 voters approved a bond that among other improvements resulted in the building of a new 5-8 grade campus. The $78 million ballot measure passed with about 69 percent approval.