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Levy approved with 70 percent ‘yes’ votes

Thank you, Vancouver! Voters in Vancouver approved the replacement educational maintenance operations levy on Feb. 9. Unofficial results show an approval of 71.43 percent of the votes. Election results will be certified on Feb. 19.

Voters in Vancouver approved the replacement educational maintenance operations levy on Feb. 9  with 71.43 percent ‘yes’ votes. Election results were certified on Feb. 19.

Local levy dollars make up approximately 18.2 percent of the budget. The McCleary decision, mandating that the state fully fund basic education, has offset a fraction of budget cuts the state has made in past several years. However, state dollars still only comprise approximately 69.3 percent of the district’s general fund budget. The local levy, federal money, and other sources make up the remainder.

To provide adequate funding for educational programs and services, school districts are permitted by law to request that voters authorize an annual operating levy, which is assessed through local property taxes. The school levy is not a new or additive tax. After each collection period, the current levy expires and, if approved by voters, another levy replaces it. The state Legislature has determined that school levies can be authorized for periods of one, two, three or four years. A levy approved for multiple years assists school districts with budget planning while requiring that inflationary costs (e.g., utilities, insurance, textbooks, supplies, equipment and personnel) be factored into the requested levy amounts for each year.

VPS’ current maintenance and operations levy comprises 18.2 percent of the general operating budget. It pays for teacher and support positions; classroom supplies, textbooks and equipment; instructional technology and software; security monitors; maintenance of buildings and grounds; staff training and professional development; support for programs of choice; extended day/year learning; education for students with special needs; extracurricular activities and intramural sports; technology support in classrooms; substitutes; portable classrooms; and utilities, insurance and fuel.

The three-year levy proposal is for $46.2 million for 2017 collection, $47.3 million for 2018 collection and $48.4 million for 2019 collection.

Estimated levy rates per $1,000 of assessed property value are projected to go down from an estimated rate of $3.06 in 2016, to $3.04 in 2017, $3.02 in 2018 and $3 in 2019. With a levy rate of $3.04, the owner of a $250,000 house would pay $760 in 2017.

Levy collection

Voters approve levy amounts, not levy rates. Levy amounts are limited by a “levy lid” set by the state at 28 percent of a school district’s revenue. However, Vancouver Public Schools’ Feb. 9 levy request is set at 24 percent. Taxes are shared among households and businesses within the boundaries of Vancouver Public Schools. The replacement M & O levy amounts are $46.2 million for 2017, $47.3 million for 2018 and $48.2 million for 2019.

The estimated M & O levy rates per $1,000 assessed value of property are:

2017 — $3.04

2018 — $3.02

2019 — $3.00

The current estimated rate for 2016 is $3.06 per $1,000 of assessed value.

With a levy rate of $3.04, the owner of a $250,000 house will pay $760 in 2017. 

Levy equalization funds

Vancouver Public Schools receives levy equalization funds from the state, but only when local replacement M & O levies are approved by voters. The district qualifies because its assessed value of property is lower than the tax base of wealthier districts. For the 2015-16 fiscal year, the district received approximately $9.5 million in equalization funds from the state.

A technology levy, passed in February 2013, supports technology for student learning in Vancouver Public Schools.

The technology levy is being used to upgrade computers and provide technology tools for all students in every school. Funding from the technology levy has allowed the district to implement a one-to-one initiative putting computer devices in the hands of all students in third through 12th grades. The levy also pays for the following items:

  • Online learning space for student access to calendars, assignments and digital learning resources
  • Standard classroom equipment, such as interactive whiteboards, projectors, document cameras and amplification systems
  • Upgraded student computer labs for state and district testing and student projects
  • Training for teachers to integrate technology into teaching and learning
  • Network systems, hardware/software and technical assistance

The technology levy provides funding for six years—2014 through 2019. Technology levy amounts are $4 million for each of those years.

Bond measures pay for construction of capital facilities.

Vancouver Public Schools is in the second year of planning for a proposed bond measure to replace several older district schools and meet state mandates for smaller class sizes. The proposed bond measure will be considered for February 2017, subject to board approval.

Replacing older schools in the central areas and south end of the district, and constructing a new facility for Vancouver iTech Preparatory are high priorities. Bond measures require a 60 percent supermajority “yes” vote for approval.

A planning symposium for each replacement school and presentations and meetings at all schools are planned for March 2016 through October 2016.

Schools identified for replacement through an assessment of facility needs are:

    • Vancouver iTech Preparatory (new)
    • Peter S. Ogden Elementary School
    • George C. Marshall Elementary School
    • McLoughlin Middle School
    • Harry S. Truman Elementary School
    • Martin Luther King Elementary School
    • Walnut Grove Elementary School
    • Fir Grove/Vista
    • Columbia River High School
    • Lieser School
    • Facility improvements are necessary at all other schools.

A new class-size average of 17 students in grades K-3 for the school year 2017-18 will require more classrooms. Existing classrooms were designed for an average of 25 students. Additional planning is required to address classroom size and space at all elementary schools

The last bond measure in Vancouver Public Schools was passed in 2001. The proceeds of the bond sales funded capital construction, safety and security measures and new technology. The long-term general obligation bonds are paid off over a maximum of 20 years.

The election

In Clark County, elections are vote-by-mail. For levy measures, a 50 percent majority of “yes” votes is required for approval. Bond measures, for capital construction projects, require 60 percent approval for passage.

Note: Some citizens with disabilities and senior citizens are exempt from paying all or part of school levy taxes. Contact the Clark County assessor for more information.

Voter registration

To register and vote in Clark County, you must be a U.S. citizen, be a resident of the county, have your full civil rights and be 18 years old by the day of the election. To vote in an election for Vancouver Public Schools, you must live within the school district’s boundaries.

Voter registration forms are available at all school offices and at the Clark County Elections Department. Or, you may register online if you have a valid Washington state driver’s license or a state identification card.

You may register to vote in Clark County up to 29 days prior to the election date if you are a voter currently registered in the state of Washington. Registration forms may be submitted by mail, online or in person. If you are not registered to vote anywhere in the state of Washington, you may submit your registration form in person at the Elections Department up to eight days before the election date. For more information, contact the Clark County Elections Department.


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Clark County is growing. Census data indicates that between 2000 and 2015, the county’s population grew more than 30 percent. The influx of new residents has raised the number of students in schools. Vancouver Public Schools’ enrollment has grown more than 7 percent in the last 15 years.