The Tahoma Board of Directors wrapped up hours and hours of discussion by unanimously voting to approve two resolutions which will place an educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy and a technology levy on the February ballot for Maple Valley.
The resolutions were approved during the district’s regular public meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
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.”
Director Tami Henkel said she hopes voters will approve of the EP&O levy to protect some of the coveted education programs Tahoma offers its students, such as career and technology education classes (CTE), which trains Tahoma students for college programs and possible careers after graduation.
“The CTE program does ready kids for college and to go into a career,” Henkel said. “It’d be really hard for me to have to tell the teachers and the kids ‘sorry’ because we have 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.
Director Mary Jane Glaser said local and state leaders have complimented Tahoma on its ability to provide a top-notch education with less dollars than some surrounding districts. She spoke on how the passage of the McCleary act actually took more money out of Tahoma’s budget. She hopes voters will want to award the district for their prudence by supporting the EP&O levy.
“We love our district,” Glaser said. “We want our kids to flourish so we need everyone to support this effort.”
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.
Director Val Paganelli supported both of the levies but said she would like to see the district start implementing technology as soon as possible if the levy is approved by voters, and hopes her district understands the challenge that would lay before them. President of the Board Didem Pierson said even though implementing new tech would be a challenge, she considers it a fun challenge since it’d mean “giving back to the kids.” She then instigated some cheers from teachers in the meeting’s crowd.
During public comment for the EP&O levy, two vote committee co-chairs told the district they needed to show a sense of stability and by voting unanimously for each resolution.
The district is going through a change in leadership while searching for a new permanent superintendent after Tony Giurado resigned at the end of September. Two positions on the school board are also up for election, with neither incumbent running to maintain their seat.
Pierson gave an impassioned comment about why she hopes the voters in Maple Valley will support the two levies. Fifteen years ago, almost to the day of the meeting, she faced a risky heart surgery. At the time she had two students in Tahoma’s elementary schools and a toddler at home. She recalled telling her husband how if anything had happened to her, that he would keep the kids at Tahoma since she knew they would receive a quality education and be supported by the community.
“That’s the love and appreciation I have for the staff,” Pierson said. “And I want that for everyone else’s kids. I believe the things this levy provides is what I would want for our kids as well as your own.”
Since both resolutions were passed unanimously, the district will now begin campaign efforts and communication efforts to let voters know how each levy could affect the district’s future budgets. The levies will appear on the Feb. 11 ballot.
Read the levies below:
Board President defends directors’ actions regarding the superintendent
A back and forth between a mother of three and Director Pierson began after comments were made about the perceived “lack of transparency” surrounding Giurado’s resignation as superintendent.
Heather Kovacs spoke for herself and read a letter from a fellow president thanking Giurado for his leadership.
“The announcement came out of the blue and left me and others confused,” Kovacs said. “I feel that compromises should have been made to keep a man on board … who was described as someone with a great work ethic.”
“I feel let down. I ask that going forward decisions like this be more transparent if possible.”
Pierson responded to the comment, saying the district was not trying to cover anything up and statements regarding Giurado’s resignation were all the district could release since it was a personnel issue.
“There isn’t anything we are hiding … anything we could post we did,” Pierson said. “The board truly does have the best interest for the students in mind … Sometimes these things are a surprise and a disappointment. There’s no scandal and nothing that’s being covered up. We want to move forward as a board.”
While the district is still on the search for a superintendent, no action items were taken regarding the search during the meeting.