The Chehalis School District will run a replacement education programs and operations levy on the upcoming February ballot, the Chehalis School Board of Directors decided last week.
At its regular meeting on Nov. 21, the Chehalis School Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution to run a four-year levy on the February ballot at an estimated rate of $1.92-$1.97 per $1,000 of assessed value, for a total of $6,965,000 collected in 2025 (estimated rate of $1.97 per $1,000); $7,313,250 collected in 2026 (estimated rate of $1.95 per $1,000); $7,605,780 in 2027 (estimated $1.94 per $1,000); and $7,833,953 in 2028 (estimated $1.92 per $1,000).
If approved by voters, the measure would only allow the district to collect the total amount listed for each year, even if property values in Chehalis continue to rise, according to the Chehalis School District.
The levy is intended to replace the current four-year levy approved by Chehalis voters in 2020, which expires at the end of 2024.
Local levies are used to fund educational needs and services either not funded or not fully-funded by the state, according to the Chehalis School District, which stated the current levy accounts for about 11.06% of the Chehalis School District’s revenue budget, excluding Green Hill Academic School.
In the 2022-2023 school year, levy money supported areas such as: security and safety, nursing, special education, transportation, curriculum, technology, counseling, library, food service, insurance, music, extracurricular activities and building maintenance.
The proposed levy amount is based on “careful calculations” by the district’s financial professionals as well as with the assistance of outside sources such as Educational Services District 113, a financial adviser, bond counsel and county assessor’s office, according to Chehalis School District Chief Financial Officer Heather C. Pinkerton.
Chehalis School Board members held a work session on Nov. 13 to consider the matter ahead of the Nov. 21 vote.
“It’s not a decision we take lightly at all,” said school board president Colleen State.
The district has experienced rising costs of basic business in the last few years, such as a $215,000 increase in insurance costs this year. In addition, as property values have risen, the Chehalis School District has received less Local Effort Assistance (LEA) levy equalization funds from the state and this trend is expected to continue, according to the Chehalis School District. The calculations used to determine a proposed levy rate also took into account that voters have experienced similar rising costs in recent years, the district stated in a news release.
“We want to remain financially conservative, yet retain the Chehalis School District’s standards of high standards of excellence in education,” Pinkerton said.
Before approving the resolution to go before the voters, Chehalis School Board member Kelsi Hamilton added an amendment that in the event the state Legislature restores LEA funding to previous levels and does not make any other substantial cuts to any other funding sources, the board would direct excess funds to either the Capital Projects Fund or would look into a levy roll back.
That amendment was unanimously approved along with the resolution.
A senior citizens and disabled persons exemption program is offered to help people living on a fixed income. For questions regarding the exemption program, application form or the application process, contact the Lewis County Assessor’s Office.
The Centralia School District is also placing a levy on the February 2024 ballot. For details on that proposal, see previous reporting at chronline.com.