Maple Valley council supports Tahoma’s levies

The city council puts its weight behind two proposed ballot measures

After hearing from both the Tahoma School District and a local political action committee (PAC), the Maple Valley City Council voted 7-0 to support the district’s two upcoming levy ballot measures.

The vote was taken during the first meeting of the year on Monday, Jan. 6. The two levies will be on the ballot in February and will support district operations and technology.

Tahoma is proposing two levy measures — a four-year Education Programs and Operational Levy (EP&O) and a four-year technology levy. The resolutions for the levies were passed by the Tahoma Board of Directors during its regular meeting on Oct. 22.

Tahoma’s Director of Communications Kevin Patterson spoke at the meeting about the basic details of the two levies. State law requires district employees and elected officials to only speak about the bare facts when levy and bond proposals are put to a vote. Employees and elected officials may not campaign for a levy or a bond in any official matter. This is where PACs and community-led campaigns come in.

Griffin Cayce, a local attorney and co-chair of the vote committee “Vote YES Tahoma,” spoke in favor of the levies during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“While VOTE is a political action committee, we don’t picture these levies as political,” Cayce said. “They are ballot measures that are related to school funding. So we go to different groups in the community … and we ask for their endorsement. So we are just seeking support if you see the value in what we are doing.”

Cayce said the Tahoma School District does a good job on providing “a return on investment.” Compared to nearby school districts, which can receive more state dollars per student than Tahoma, the district is churning out high test scores, extracurricular programs and more.

“We are doing a lot of with much less than our neighbors, and I’m proud of that, but we need to maintain our continuity to keep these programs strong,” Cayce said. “This is not about the Tesla model. We are not looking to be flushed with cash, but we are looking to do what we’ve always done. To be wise stewards of the dollar and returning something back that is good. Good schools connect to good communities.”

Cayce also pointed out the impact levies and school funding has on small communities such as Maple Valley, since the school district is the largest employer in the area.

“Strong school districts draw people here and businesses here,” Cayce said. “When we fail levies, there is a significant impact on our community … it impacts our people and it impacts our kids. It affected our morale for a while after that.”

If approved, the EP&O levy will replace an expiring two-year levy which was approved by voters in 2018. It will provide funds for educational services, staffing and supplies that are underfunded, or not funded at all, by the state. If it is not approved, other school programs may be cut from the budget to free up monies for these “unfunded mandates.”

The EP&O levy tax rate would be $2.00 per $1,000 of taxable home value, according to the district’s resolution. So for a home valued at $473,700, the median home price of a house in Maple Valley according to Zillow.com, the tax would be $947.40 a year. The new tax rate, if approved, would not go into affect until the current EP&O levy expired. The EP&O levy would collect $17.4 million in 2021 and would increase to $22.3 million by 2024.

The technology levy would fill in a gap left after a previous technology levy measure failed in 2018. The levy is based on a technology plan the district formed and approved in early October, which gives a list of needs and wants for the district. Even with an estimated $16.8 million to be collected over four years if the technology levy passes, items from the original technology plan had to be cut.

According to the district’s levy resolution, the tax rate for the tech levy will be $0.45 per $1,000 of taxable home value starting in the first year, 2020, and by 2024 the levy rate will drop to $0.38 per $1,000 taxable home value. For a median-priced home in Maple Valley, at $473,700, the taxes would start at $227.38 a year.

Both rates for the levy are estimates, which are based on the total assessed property value for the entire school district.

For more information on the levies, visit https://sites.google.com/tahomasd.us/tsdleviesinformation/home.

Anyone interested in learning more about the levies or who have questions for the district can attend three upcoming meetings. Two meetings will be held at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Central Services Center, located at 25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road SE. The third meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11 in the Performing Arts Center at Tahoma High School.

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