School levy is back on the Nov. 4 ballot

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The Mount Pleasant School District is again asking voters to approve a levy in order to keep the school running.

The two-year levy will be $3.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2015 and $3.78 per $1,000 in 2016. For the owner of a $250,000 home, this averages to approximately $945 for the first year and $962 the second year.

“We need the money,” said Karl Kanthak, school board president. “In order to stay solvent, we need to have the levy funds.”

In the past, the district relied mostly on federal forest funds, in addition to money received from the state. However, due to decreased timber sales and federal budget decreases, these funds have been significantly reduced over the years, leaving a shortfall in the budget, Kanthak noted.

“The bottom line is, our previous sources of funding have gone away,” he said.

In the February special election, less than half of the voters participated and the levy failed by seven votes. Kanthak is hopeful that the levy will pass in the November election. In 2014, no property taxes are being collected by the district. Instead, the district is tapping into approximately $150,000 of reserve funds to keep the school operational this year. The district’s annual budget is approximately $600,000.

If approved, levy funds will be used for educational programs, facilities, and maintenance and operations of the district.

“The levy is needed to offset the funding lost from federal funds and the state,” said Vicki Prendergast, superintendent. “On the expense side, there is an increase in costs to comply with ever-expanding new regulations and unfunded mandates such as Common Core, the Teacher Principal Evaluation Program and Smarter Balance testing.”

Currently, Mount Pleasant has 60 students and employees four full-time teachers in kindergarten through seventh-grade, a part-time principal/superintendent, office manager, a combined janitorial and bus driver position and a two part-time classroom aides.

Washington law requires all properties to be part of an educational taxing district. If Mount Pleasant becomes insolvent the state will step in and consolidate it with the Washougal School district.

The total Washougal School District property tax rate in 2013 was $4.97 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $1,242.50 for the owner of a $250,000 home. For 2014, it is approximately $4.58 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $1,145 for the owner of a $250,000 home.

“We have a strong program here and a neat place for a school,” Kanthak said. “It will cost voters less (to approve the levy) than if the district is consolidated. They also lose local control.”