School boards deserve credit for keeping levy rate down

Voters within the Oroville and Tonasket School Districts will be asked to approve new two-year maintenance and operations levies to replace the ones that run out at the end of this school year. In fact, all the school districts in Okanogan County will be asking voters to support their schools because state basic education funds fall short of what is really needed to educate our children – our citizens of tomorrow.

In a perfect world Washington State would actually provide a public education that did not need to be subsidized with levies. However, it is not a perfect world and we still want our children, these future leaders, to have the tools they need to be good citizens of our country.

Both Oroville and Tonasket are asking for increases over the previous levy requests, however, the school boards for both districts have strived to keep the actual collection rate, the money we pay per $1,000 in assessed property valuation, as low as they can. In fact, our north county school districts have decided upon levies that are collected at $2.22 per $1,000 in assessed valuation. That is the lowest rate of all the eight area school districts asking for their citizens’ local support.

Superintendent Ernie Bartelson said recently that there is some confusion over whether the levy amount requested, in the Oroville district’s case $771,000 and in Tonasket’s $784,000, can go up if the property valuation in the district goes up. The question is a good one, especially since north county property values, like those throughout the county, are on the rise. This is especially true of Oroville which has attracted people from north of the border willing to escape the higher prices in Canada.

Supt. Bartelson wanted to make it clear that the amount, the $771,000, can not go up during the two collection years, 2009 and 2010, even if the value of the property within the district does. However, the rate per thousand can go down if the district’s value increases. This was demonstrated in the current Oroville School levy which was approved by the voters at a rate of $1.99 per $1,000 of property value. When the combined value of the properties in the district went up the collection rate went down to $1.88 per $1,000 in assessed valuation.

It’s unlikely that property values in the North Okanogan will be dropping any time soon. This area has been discovered as a great place to enjoy recreational opportunities, to retire or to raise a family. One byproduct of these new property owners is that they are going to help us pay to educate our kids.

The school directors we elected for local control of our school district have made a wise choice in keeping the levy collection rate as low as they have. This is especially true when you look at the per thousand costs at some of the other school districts going to the voters for help like Brewster, $3.49; Omak, $3.55 and Coulee Dam, $4.75.

Anyone who has questions about the upcoming March 11 levy ballot should get in touch with either Dr. Bartelson at the Oroville School District (509) 476-2281 or Dr. Randy Hauff at the Tonasket School District (509) 486-2126 or one of your district’s school board members.