Oroville area voters approve $1.5 million school levy

OROVILLE- It appears voters in the Oroville School District have listened to thearguments in favor of a two-year $1.497 million Maintenance and Operations Levyand gave it their approval.

Althoughthe election will not be certified until Feb. 24, according to Mila Jury anelection official with the Okanogan County Auditor’s office, currently the levyhas 615 votes in favor of the measure and 508 against for a total of 54.76approval. In order to pass the levy needs a simple majority of over 50 percent,unlike previous levy ballots where it needed a super majority of 60 percent.This changed after a amendment to the state constitution lowering the number ofvotes to approve to 50 percent was passed in 2007.

Thetwo-year replacement M&O Levy is nearly twice the amount asked of thevoters in 2008, but due to a doubling of the assessed property value within theschool district’s boundaries, the collection rate at $2.31 per $1000 inassessed valuation, is just nine cents per $1000 more than what voters approvedthat year. Even though the district sought the maximum allowed by state law,the collection amount asked remained lower than all the other district’s in theregion that had M&O measures on the ballot in the Tuesday, Feb. 9 election.There was quite a range of collection amounts running from Oroville’s low of$2.31/$1000 to a high of $3.43/$1000 in both Bridgeport and Brewster schooldistricts. And despite tough economic times it looked as though area votersstill consider education a priority as Omak, Brewster, Pateros and Bridgeportpassed their M&O levies as well and Okanogan passed a technology.

OrovilleSchool District’s levy supports a long list of needs at Oroville schools thatare not paid for from state basic education funds. These include utilities,technology, maintenance, extra-curricular programs, two classified positions,transportation, curriculum, summer school, AP classes, libraries, substitutes,the gifted program, academic contests, the HOSTS reading program, KnowledgeBowl competitions, yearbook, music program, vocational program,lunch/breakfast, sixth grade camp and classroom materials, as well asmaintaining the upkeep on school buildings and grounds.

Thereasons the district’s school directors decided on the highest amount everrequested of Oroville voter’s are many. State budget cuts are severely impactingall school districts in the state and Oroville especially feels the loss offunding because it also lost levy equalization money when the district wasreassessed recently. The levy equalization funds are earmarked for propertypoorer school districts that do not have the ability to raise the amounts ofmoney through levies that property rich districts can. The state cuts, levyequalization loss of nearly $400,000 a year, other cuts to the district’sbudget and federal programs the district is obligated to continue funding addedup to the difference in what the district requested this time around and whatit requested in 2008.

Although the collection amount is slightlyhigher than what was approved two years ago, property taxpayers will see a dropin their total school obligations because the district paid off its 20-yearhigh school remodel bond in December. This 66 cents per $1000 in assessedvaluation will no longer appear on tax payers’ bills.