Camas School District replacement levies head to voters

District will have two propositions on ballot in February 2021 special election

Camas School District voters will decide in February 2021 if they will approve two replacement levies that, combined, make up about 15 percent of the school district’s revenues.

“The voter-approved (2018-21) levy is expiring, so we need to go out for replacement levies,” Jasen McEathron, the district’s director of business services and operations, explained at the Camas School Board’s meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.

The board approved three levy-related resolutions Monday evening.

The first, a routine, annual certification of the district’s levy rates, approved the 2021 levy rate at $2.50 per $1,000 assessed property value (APV) for the district’s Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) levy and 28 cents per $1,000 APV for the district’s Capital/Technology levy. Combined with the district’s reduced debt service from a construction bond voters passed in 2016, the combined school district taxes in 2021 will be $4.77 per $1,000 APV — down from the 2020 rate of $5.57 per $1,000 APV.

“For the owner of a $750,000 home, it’s (about) $600 a year less,” McEathron said.

The second resolutions address the district’s hope that voters will replace the EP&O and capital/technology levies, which are set to expire at the end of 2021, for an additional three years.

Those levies pay for many of the services Camas School District families have come to expect, school board members said.

“Families expect a high level of service and (the levies are) what help fund that,” board member Corey McEnry said. “If approved, the replacement EP&O levy would have an estimated rate of $2.50 per $1,000 APV in 2022, 2023 and 2024, and bring the district a total of $53 million over those three years.

The district uses its EP&O levy funds to pay for staff not funded by state revenues — including library, transportation, food service, special education, technology support and nursing staff — as well as to hire teachers that allow for smaller class sizes, maintain school grounds and offer extracurricular activities, including athletics.

“It’s not legal to use state funds on athletics,” McEathron pointed out on Monday, so the district must use supplemental funds from the levies to pay for coaching staff and athletics-related costs.

The replacement capital/technology levy, if approved, would cost taxpayers an estimated 54 cents per $1,000 APV and bring the district $11.5 million over the 2022-24 three-year time period.

“This is a little bit of an increase to maintain some of our capital needs,” McEathron said. “Our capital needs are higher than what this will fund but we wanted to maintain a level tax rate.”

The district would use a little more than half of the capital/technology levy funds to fund technology needs, while the other 46 percent of the money would pay for school building needs such as roofs, boilers and fire protection systems.

Board member Tracey Malone said she understood that spending 35 percent of the levy funds to pay for roofs may not sound exciting to voters, but that the district has a requirement to maintain its buildings.

“(Voters) may see that 35 percent and think, ‘Whoa, that’s expensive and not exciting,’ but we know that those need to be done,” Malone said.

Board member Doug Quinn agreed.

“Roofs and boilers and fire protection don’t seem very focused on education, but if a room isn’t comfortable for our students, they’re not going to learn well,” Quinn pointed out. “If the roofs are leaking, it’s really ridiculous the level of damage that can occur. And fire protection … gets to the safety of our students. It makes it easy for me to offer support for those steps moving forward.”

Together, the two levies make up about 15 percent of the school district’s total revenues.

“Losing 15 percent of our budget would be catastrophic,” McEnry said. “Really, the levies are the reason we can offer what we can offer in Camas.”

For more information about the district’s 2018-21 replacement levies, approved by voters in 2017, visit camas.wednet.edu/about-csd/budget-funding/levies.

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