Voters will soon receive ballots for the April 27 special election and be asked to vote on Centralia School District’s replacement educational programs and operations levy — the district’s third attempt to pass a levy since the beginning of 2020.
The district’s two previous attempts to pass a levy both failed, with a February 2020 proposal asking for $2.50 per $1,000 failing with 69 percent of voters in opposition and an August 2020 proposal for $2 per $1,000 failing with 50.38 percent opposed.
This time around, the district is asking for $1.50 per $1,000. If passed, collection would begin in 2022. In total, the levy is estimated to raise $2.4 million in the 2021-2022 school year and $4.6 million in the 2022-2023 school year.
The school board voted to set the lower rate back in February after taking into account recommendations from the budget task force, a group of community members and school staff. The amount maximizes Local Effort Assistance (LEA) funding from the state, and if the levy passes, the state will grant the school district an additional $700,000 in funding in the 2021-22 school year and $1 million in the 2022-23 year.
“We know we have improvements that need to continue to be made as a district, that’s why a two-year levy. We want to be accountable for outcomes, show what we’re doing with those dollars and the impacts it's having, and then continue to move forward as a district,” said Centralia Superintendent Lisa Grant at a March 23 city council meeting where she explained the ballot proposal and the district’s intended uses for the funding.
Specifically, the levy will fund services and support support programs intended to improve academic outcomes, such as instructional facilitators, technology maintenance, College in the High School and other programs for highly-capable students. It would also support special education students and fund efforts to engage students in programs, services and activities that increase success, such as athletics, music, performing arts, counseling and behavioral supports.
“We know the state funds basic education and certain pieces of structure for our students, but it does not fund everything our students need for their success, so our levy dollars will be focused on two areas intended to support students very directly,” Grant said. “They’re not necessarily glamorous, but they are items that we know are proven to give positive results for students.”
The district’s previous levy expired in December 2020. In August 2020, the school district publicized a projected shortfall in its 2020-2021 school year budget of $11.9 million — a portion of which is due to lost levy revenue, The Chronicle previously reported.
Along with other cuts, the district laid off 90 school employees this past summer to help balance the budget.
“We know the levy benefits our students if we target supports to increase their success. We also know strong schools support strong communities, increase living wage jobs, housing values, all those pieces benefit our community, and those things benefit our future for our students, our school district and our community,” Grant said.
To help ensure that voters have all their questions about the levy answered prior to the election, the school district is hosting virtual “coffee o’clocks” April 6, 14 and 20, along with a Zoom forum 7-8 p.m. on April 13. Links to each of the virtual events, along with information about the levy and answers to frequently asked questions, are on the district’s website, www.centralia.k12.wa.us/Page/3921.