School Board picks levy amount for February vote

"The South Whidbey School Board filled in the numbers on a levy resolution Tuesday to formally establish the figures for the two-year maintenance and operation levy that will be presented to voters Feb. 29.The basic figure will sound familiar to property owners in the school district: $1.54 per thousand of assessed value.“Over the last 10 years we haven’t raised that amount,” Superintendent Lisa Bjork told the board, including new members Ray Gabelein and Bob Riggs. That fact, she added, “really seems to play well on the speaking circuit.”Bjork is already attending public meetings to explain the levy proposition, although the final numbers weren’t set until Tuesday.The levy will raise approximately $3 million in the years 2001 and 2002, and amounts to 24 percent of the school district’s total budget. That’s the maximum percentage the state allows local school districts to levy.The last maintenance and operation levy was approved by voters in 1998 and also started out at about $1.54 per thousand. The assessment figure for 2000 is still being calculated in the Island County Assessor’s Office, according to deputy assessor Lanny Kee. That number should be known next week, he said Thursday.Although the tax rate will be the same, the dollar amount raised will increase because property values go up annually. “A dollar fifty-four is certainly not exorbitant,” said board president Jim Adsley. “But more than likely our taxes are going to go up.” Bjork acknowledged that fact, but said that since the new levy will replace the prior one so taxpayers shouldn’t notice a big increase on their statements.The board unanimously supported the motion to approve the levy.Voters will hear much more about the levy in weeks to come. Debra Valis co-chairs a citizens’ Levy Committee with Dean Hatt. Valis told the board the committee will begin serious work in January, although already she has learned “the mood of the voters is very positive for schools.”Valis expects a supportive public when the campaign begins in earnest. “We’re a good district and we’d like to maintain that level of service” she said. A “blast off” campaign event is planned for Jan. 6.While the state pays for so-called “basic education,” levy money is needed to fully or partially fund such school programs as arts, athletics, facilities maintenance, transportation, food services, and much more."

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