With the Centralia School Board placing the school district’s levy proposal on the April special election ballot after it failed to get voter approval during last month’s election, both the Port of Centralia and the Centralia City Council unanimously passed resolutions supporting the levy at meetings this week.
Election results showed the levy failed with 2,486 no votes to 2,405 yes votes.
The levy proposes a tax rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, the same rate approved by voters in 2021. Due to increased property valuations, that rate would generate a higher amount of tax revenue than is permitted by the 2021 levy. Revenue collected is for educational programs and operations.
At Tuesday night’s Centralia City Council meeting, the majority of the discussion revolved around the importance of having well-funded schools to help with the community’s economic vitality. A healthy school district helps attract prospective families and businesses to move into the area, councilors said.
A former teacher himself who taught in Centralia for more than 20 years, Centralia City Councilor Mark Westley spoke about the effect of levy dollars. He said it helps not only students in the classroom but outside as well with extracurricular activities including sports and the arts.
“I’m not afraid to have those crucial and critical conversations with those of you who do not see the value of voting yes for the levy. Please reach out to me,” Westley said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “I would love to sit down with you, have a cup of coffee and talk through the many experiences as an educator and the value that levy dollars have brought to our community and are paying dividends today.”
A fellow educator on the council, City Councilor Sarah Althauser, echoed some of Westley’s comments and reinforced a point being made about schools being important to the community’s vitality.
“It is one of the first questions, when people look at moving to Centralia from out of the area, they’re like, ‘How are your schools doing? Do the levies pass?’” said Althauser. “I want to be able to say, ‘100%, they do.’”
Many of the same sentiments were shared at the Port of Centralia meeting Wednesday afternoon.
“As we all know, education is the cornerstone of any economy and any culture. And I feel that Supporting our schools is paramount for our economy and for businesses that are looking at our city, our community and I’m very much in support of this,” Port of Centralia Commissioner Julie Shaffley said at the Wednesday meeting.
Due to the levy’s failure to pass last month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said the Centralia School District was placed on the state’s “watch list,” according to previous reporting by The Chronicle.
The list consists of 20 to 30 school districts that have had multiple levy failures, significant student enrollment decline or other factors contributing to loss of funding. Reykdal’s office monitors the districts to see if state intervention is needed.
Voters will cast their ballots to decide the levy’s fate again on April 25.