Maintenance, operations levy on ballot

Published on Thu, Jan 22, 2004
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Maintenance, operations levy on ballot

Voters will be asked to pass a maintenance and operations levy on Tuesday, February 3, allowing the Blaine school district to maintain its quality of education, officials said.

�This is not a new tax,� Blaine superintendent Dr. Mary Lynne Derrington stated. �It is not a frill. It is not an extra. It is essential of the program we offer.�

A little more than 20 percent of the Blaine school district�s budget relies on the levy through the taxpayer, Dr. Derrington said. State funding comprises 52 percent of the budget, grants are 17 percent, and federal funds only make up 10 percent.

�The levy is 21 percent of our budget which funds essentials such as 9.5 teachers and 10 support staff,� she said. �Twenty-one percent of our budget is significant.�

The state � from which Blaine gets the majority of its funding � excludes many things that both school officials and the community feel are important. �For example, any enrichment program such as sports and clubs, none of that is funded any other way except through the levy,� Derrington said.

Back in 2000, Blaine voters approved a four-year levy, and this 2004 request continues that. The maintenance and operations levy is used for basic education, unlike a capital projects bond which is used for construction.

�We can only levy a dollar amount, and that is a percentage of our budget. We cannot by law levy any more than 24 percent of our budget,� Derrington said.

Currently, Blaine school district has the lowest dollar per thousand rate in the county at $1.75. Ferndale is the next lowest at $3.16 and Mt. Baker tops districts at $3.49.

The levy needs 60 percent of the vote to pass, and in past years approximately 30 percent of the voter base turned out to the polls. �That is not a simple majority. This makes it very high stakes for us. A school levy takes a 60 percent yes vote.�

So what happens if the levy fails? �Well, we would be making plans to lay off 9.5 teachers, 10 other support staff, and eliminate programs funding by the levy,� Derrington said. �I�ve been through it once in 25 years and it is a shock to people when they see what the levy funds by what is cut. You end up with a very bare bones program.�

The following is a breakdown of the Blaine taxpayer�s current levy dollar:�$0.71 is for student learning improvement, library books and instructional material, teacher, support staff, campus security, student safety and recess supervision; $0.04 is used towards after school activities for all grade levels and athletics; and $0.25 is for utilities, building maintenance, grounds case and buses.

The levy increases a few cents yearly due to an increase in property assessment and the addition of more students in the district, she said.

�You have increased costs, but no more money. In fact, money is cut from state. Then you figure out where you have to reduce and economize.�

Senior citizens 61 and older in the community who have a gross household income less than $30,000, qualify to pay no special levy costs. Those citizens are encouraged to contact the Whatcom County Assessor�s Office at 676-6790 for more information.

�You often hear the schools are the heart of the community and I have observed that is absolutely true. In my experience here, there are far less youth oriented agencies and opportunities for positive activities, than there are in other communities,� Derrington said. �And that makes the school really an important focus for kids for healthy production, in addition to learning. Those are all levy funded.�

For more information, visit online at http://info.blainelevy.org. The election is February 3.

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