Tonasket schools to ask for capital levy

TONASKET – Citing the need to keep district facilities in top condition and replace an aging alternative education building, as well as provide for a slowly growing student population, the Tonasket School Board approved superintendent Paul Turner’s request to ask the voters for a capital levy to provide funding for those needs.

The bond levy used for construction of the school buildings expires in Dec., 2013. If the district passes a capital levy next spring, collections would begin in 2014.

A capital levy would collect funds for a maximum of six years, allowing the district to proceed with projects as the money was collected. The advantage of a capital levy, as opposed to a bond, is that there would be no interest required, with the entire collection going to facilities work.

A bond would allow the district access to funds all at once, but require interest to be paid, thus increasing the total cost.

“If we’re going to run it this spring, we need to get going on it,” Turner said. “I’m asking is for the board to give me a thumbs up for a thumbs down so we can start working on it. We need to get the word out and get things lined up.

“There’s discussion on priorities, which we can work through. But what I need to know if we’re going to run a capital levy so we can start getting the numbers together and see how everything will line up.”

Turner recommended a $1.75 per $1,000 of property valuation capital levy, which would keep the total levy collections at their 2009 rate and bring in $780,000 annually for capital improvements.

Turner’s priority list included the replacement of the alternative education/outreach building, addition of at least two elementary school classrooms, completion and maintenance of the athletic facilities, roof replacement for the middle and high schools, asphalt resurfacing, HVAC and chillers, and expansion of the ag shop.

“We need to run a capital levy,” said board member Lloyd Caton. “But we’ll have a lively discussion of what the priorities are. This isn’t a priority list that I like too much.

“We also have to, in the process of selling the levy and educating the voters, we have to realize that these are based on today’s numbers. Six years from now, this may not cover everything. We need to make sure people completely understand that.”

“If we’re going to go ahead with it, we need to spend a lot of time on the prioritization,” Turner said. “If we come up short, then we’ll go as far as we can go, get (as far down the list as we can), then see where we’re at.”

Board member Catherine Stangland said she wanted a lot more detail than what was presented before deciding on how exactly to proceed.

“If the board wants to move ahead, I’ll start getting more numbers and input put together,” Turner said. “If I can recommend the first meeting of September to talk about the prioritization piece; I also want have a meeting with the staff and get input from them.”

“It’s something we need to do,” Caton said. “And I think this is a smart way to handle the money, because all the money that comes into the district will be utilized by the district.

“But we need to look at real hard what things are going to cost and what our priorities are.”

After some further discussion, the board unanimously voted to pursue the capital levy, with the exact amount and specific priorities to be determined in the coming weeks.

The board also approved the hiring of six new employees: kindergarten teacher Cheri Wahl, part-time elementary outreach teacher Michelle Hardesty, band instructor Mariliz Romano (who split the position last year with Patti Middleton), technology secretary Jenny Cory, elementary library parapro Sarah Prock and bilingual parapro Crystal Pedregon.

Turner reported that, with one month to go in the school budget year, that the district was likely to finish with a slightly higher-than-anticipated balance in the reserve fund, at approximately $800,000.

“That will be good news,” Turner said. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out (this last month). Budget-wise we’re on target, and even a little better than we anticipated.”

The board also reviewed readings of a number of policies in the 5000 series, approved the submission of its state-mandated Minimum Basic Education Requirement Compliance report, and approved the execution of a supplemental contract for four teachers (Joyce Fancher, Jackie Gliddon, Jim Swanson and Michelle Silverthorn) who earned their National Board Certification.

The school board next meets on Monday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m.