Yes on Washougal schools’ M&O and tech levies

Washougal voters will be asked to approve two school replacement levies on Feb. 11.

A three-year maintenance and operations (M&O) levy totaling approximately $19.6 million over three years, 2015 to 2017, will replace the current levy expiring in 2014. Local levy dollars make up more than 20 percent of the school district budget providing money for programs not fully funded by the state. Student health and safety, sports programs, extracurricular learning, performing arts opportunities, textbooks, student transportation, professional development, community education, facility maintenance and student support programs are some of the areas funded by the M&O levy.

Dawn Tarzian, superintendent, has encouraged citizens to review levy information mailed to school district patrons last week. “The district has worked diligently over the last several years to keep our community informed of the many successes of our students that are a result of the hard work of our dedicated staff,” she said. “The community is also aware of the district’s prudent management of state and local resources and the long term facility needs that have been addressed.”

Accompanying the M&O levy on the ballot will be a three-year technology levy totaling approximately $2.1 million over three years. Technology levy dollars support learning tools for the classroom and the infrastructure to support it, as well as training for staff on how to use the technology.

More specifically, if this technology levy is approved, a significant amount of those dollars would go toward implementing a 1:1 tablet initiative for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, phased in over four years, according to Lester Brown, director of technology for the district. The technology levy dollars would fund the first three years of the roll out of tablets. Tablets for teachers, as well as needed training, would be provided, as well as expansion of the wireless network and replacement of the existing core network infrastructure over the next three years.

Overall, the Washougal School District has put together a smart, forward thinking pair of levies for voters to consider. The focus is on student learning and keeping pace with teaching and learning practices used in today’s information age. If approved, Washougal students can benefit from these upgrades and have a much better chance of success in their post high school learning endeavors.

Investments like these, of course, do not come without costs. While both are replacement levies, if approved the estimated average rate of assessed value for homeowners will increase for both the M&O and technology levy, over the current expiring levies starting in 2015.

For example, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay approximately $827.50 in M&O taxes, an increase of $105 per year over the current expiring levy. If the technology levy is approved, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay approximately $92.50 per year, an increase of $60 per year, over the current expiring levy.

The district, however, has been prudent in keeping levy costs down in past years and these two packages, despite the slight increases, are also very sensible requests. Citizens should step up and show their support for Washougal students and schools by approving both measures on Feb. 11.