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Special February 13 Election

Superintendent’s answer patrons questions on levies

January 29, 2024

Kahlotus School District Superintendent Andie Webb shares about the replacement Levy with patrons on Wednesday, January 24.

By: C&K Trowbridge

You should have received your ballot in the mail for the special February 13 election.

Depending on where you live, you will either see the North Franklin School District (NFSD) or the Kahlotus School District’s (KSD) request for voter approval for the replacement of expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy. 

If you live within Franklin County Fire District 2, you will also see their request for bonds to construct a new fire station. Franklin County Fire District 2 Commissioners adopted a resolution concerning firefighting facilities to protect public health, life, and property. The bond proposition would authorize the district to construct a new fire station sized to meet current, and future, emergency response needs. Their goal is to replace the existing fire station on Violet Avenue due to its age and inadequate size. The current building houses two fire engines, a brush truck, and a command vehicle. The new facility would accommodate six engines to be stored out of the weather and full of water ready to respond to emergencies across the 275 square miles  of the District. The District is also utilizing ARPA and other funds issued through Franklin County to support the completion of the project. 

On Wednesday, January 24, both NFSD and KSD Superintendents held informative, public meetings to explain what their respective, replacement levy is, what it will be paying for, and answer questions. 

NFSD Superintendent Jim Jacobs explained the difference between a levy and a bond sharing with the two people attending, “Levies are for learning, Bonds are for building.” As the district is still paying off their current bond, they will not be seeking a new bond measure despite some parents feeling the need for new facilities. Jacobs went on to explain that the bond falls off in 2028, at that time the district will look at what the community wants, what the priorities are, and see what costs are. In February 2009, the voters approved the current bond in the $20 million range which was matched by state funding to build Connell Elementary, remodel Olds Junior High, add onto the high school, as well as Mesa and Basin City Elementary Schools. 

At this time, the district is seeking the continuance of the levy they have in place. The levy provides enrichment in a number of ways. These include music instruction and programs K-12 for music and choral students, 4-12 grade band along with high school drama. NFSD is a  leader in technology among like sized districts. With support of the levy, NFSD will be able to continue to develop this stretch and implement programs such as the one to one Chromebook initiative. Almost a third of the enrichment levy goes to athletics and extracurricular activities. After school enrichment is a piece of this along with coaches salaries, uniforms, knowledge bowl, math teams, transportation, and more. 

College in the Classroom is another piece of the levy that provides 96 college credits to students at CHS. School Safety is also covered through the levy including cameras, buzz-ins (that control who enters the schools) and nursing in each building. Supplemental staffing to meet the priorities established by our community for librarians, secondary art teachers and additional counselors. 

KSD Superintendent Dr. Andie Webb spoke to interested persons in attendance concerning the current school levy that expires this year and the replacement levy that extends for the next two years (2025 and 2026) as Kahlotus School Principal Mark Bitzer assisted with an accompanying slideshow. She explained that education is not 100% funded as there is a 3% gap between what Washington State provides for educational programs and operations costs and actual needs - local finances must be added. The Replacement Levy would fill that gap to pay for Food Services, Transportation, and Paraprofessionals. More specifically, the Levy funds are needed to pay for one full-time cook (state funding only pays for a part of the salary and does not include the time required for inventory and required paperwork), two paraprofessionals (state funding only pays for three of them), and transportation beyond the two state-funded bus routes (sports, field trips, student leadership events, FBLA, band, community service, and trainings). Additionally, a small amount of the Levy maintains other activities for the students, such as the pool (the only district that still has one). Information provided showed that the WA state operating budget for K-12 education has decreased. The state budget percentage of the state’s total budget went from 52% (2019-21) to 48% (2021-22) to its lowest: 43.7% (2023-25). It is important to note that, if the levy is not approved/passed, there would be no levy and no funding to cover the needed shortfalls which are services important to local families and benefit the entire community. Notably, KSD has had approved operations levies in place, continuously, for more than 20 years. For clarity, this is not a new levy - it is a replacement levy. 

As both superintendents explained, the state mandates schools provide certain things that are oftentimes unfunded - commonly referred to as “unfunded mandates”. These also fall into the levy - including professional development days that maintain highly qualified teaching staff and supplemental staffing for paraeducators, librarians, and additional counselors. 

At the North Franklin School District, what Superintendent Jacobs referred to as “a property poor district,” the state provides a levy equalization match. So while the district is asking for a $2 million replacement levy, in reality (with the state’s match) it comes out to $3.3 million. The district levies at $1.50/ $1,000 of evaluation to generate the max state match. Combined with the bond payment, this falls around $2.50/ $1,000 on your taxes.

The  Kahlotus School District is also benefiting from state matching funds. KSD’s proposed levy of $1.75/$1,000 should provide $140,000.

The county does have a tax break for senior citizens (over 61) or disabled people. You can contact the County Assessor’s office to find out if you qualify. 

Ballots are due back by Tuesday, February 13. If mailing, the elections office encourages you to send it about a week ahead of time. However, you can also place it in a ballot drop box up until 8 pm on Election day. NFSD Ballot drop boxes are located near the Connell School Campuses at 619 W. Clark Street. You can also find a ballot drop box at 103 Franklin Street in Mesa. KSD’s local Ballot drop box is located at 115 N. Violet Ave, on the corner of Road US260 and Violet Ave.

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