In case you haven’t heard it before, school financing is very complicated. Funds come from the federal government, state government and levies. Each comes with some restrictions on how those dollars can be used. Levies commonly run 10 to 12 percent of a district’s entire budget. Levies are for a specific amount of time and a defined amount. When the time of the levy ends, another levy must take its place or those funds are lost. We are always disappointed to see any school district’s levy fail.
We were devastated to see Centralia’s levy go down, not once, but twice, because we knew they were in an unusual situation at the time. Chehalis had run a levy which was $2.53 per thousand a year before Centralia was required by the state legislature to only ask a maximum of $1.50 per thousand. Luckily, that levy passed. However, when time had run its course and Centralia had to put a replacement levy to voters, they asked for $2.50 per thousand. The Legislature had come to realize districts were suffering under the $1.50 restriction to maintain programs and hence had changed the maximum to $2.50. Unfortunately, many misunderstandings followed for Centralia. Some thought it was in addition to the $1.50 levy. Some questioned the additional $1.00 as unnecessary. Some felt a teacher salary increase was to blame, which was caused by the Legislature’s failure to maintain a state teachers salary schedule which they had dropped. (What commotion that caused is for another time.) Some citizens went so far as to campaign for levy failure, contributing to the loss. A second levy run for $2 per thousand also failed, putting the Centralia School District in a position of cutting essential programs and personnel. This is something no school district wants to address as so many are hurt by the decisions that must be made, while students suffer the most.
For Centralia, the sad realization is even if this next levy passes, at $1.50 per thousand, the district will still be millions of dollars short from where they originally were before the first levy failure. Double levy failures take years to get back to the point of total recovery. From what we’ve been reading, your new Superintendent Dr. Lisa Grant is working diligently in trying to make that happen by explaining where you’re headed, where to get the correct information about your levy and how you can begin your recovery.
So please, for everyone, when considering your next school district levy consider how essential they are not only to your schools and their students, but also to your community.
Because strong schools help build strong communities.
Vicki and Denny Daniels