Supporters ask 'yes' vote for Tonasket M&O Levy

TONASKET – As voters are receiving their ballots in the mail next week, Tonasket Superintendent Paul Turner asks that voters think of the students before making their decisions.

“I hope when the voters look at their ballot, they’re thinking about the kids in this district,” Turner said. “In order to offer the programs to make these students successful, the levy is crucial. This is the one place where the voters have the opportunity to voice their support of the school, of education and of the importance of education.”

The levy, which is being run at a rate of $2.22 per $1,000 of Assessed Valuation, will provide $959 per student in the Tonasket School District. This is less than the amount per student for both Omak and Okanogan, which are bringing in $1,029 and $1,089 per student, respectively. If Levy Equalization Act (LEA) funds come to the district through the legislature, the district will have approximately $1,464 per student. Based on the LEA funds the district received this past year, the anticipated LEA funds for next year are $512,337, but the school district will only receive these funds if they pass their levy.

“If the levy fails, we lose nearly $1.5 million and we’ll have to seriously look at cuts,” Turner said. “With the levy passing, we’re already looking at making cuts of $200,000 to $300,000.”

Assuming the maintenance and operations levy passes, the money will be used for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. The funds will be spent on curriculum/technology, special programs and staffing, co-curricular and buildings and grounds. For the first and second year, if the levy passes and the LEA funds come in, a district pamphlet states approximately $515,482 will be spent on science and language arts curriculum improvement, computer purchases, extra staffing and curriculum materials and educational software under the category of curriculum/technology.

The pamphlet states that for the special programs and staffing funds, approximately $346,629 will be spent each year on senior projects, sixth grade camp, paraprofessionals, teachers for additional course offerings and extended contracts for librarians and counselors. The co-curricular funds, such as supporting drama, knowledge bowl, yearbook, athletics, cheerleading, etc., will be approximately $217,230 each year. Finally, under the category of buildings and grounds, approximately $137,420 will be spent on maintaining current custodial, maintenance and grounds personal each year, approximately $199,367 will be spent on materials/supplies and increased fuel/propane costs each year and approximately $71,000 will be spent on the fire suppression system upgrade, asphalt resealing and carpet replacement each year.

“The legislature has agreed on a budget but they haven’t agreed on the revenue amount,” Turner explained. “The legislature has to bring in around $800 million of revenue to make their budget work, but they can’t agree on that. The Tonasket School District is looking at staffing and budgeting 981 students for next year, which gives us a starting point to look at scenarios, but until we know numbers, we’re kind of being held hostage by the state.”

Voting ends for the levy on Tuesday, April 27 and it needs a simple majority (just over 50 percent) to pass.

“It would really do our hearts good to see the levy pass with a high percentage,” Turner said.