NASELLE - Voters have already received their ballots for the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District Maintenance and Operations Levy for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. The measure for the replacement levy to provide continued local support for the local schools will be determined by the mail in ballots that must be postmarked by Tuesday February 19, 2008.

Levy supporters emphasize that, "This is not an 'add-on' levy, but rather it replaces the current levy that expires at the end of 2008." The resolution to submit the levy was given unanimous support by all of the members of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School Board of Directors.

Superintendent of Schools Alan Bennett, in an e-mail to district patrons, said, "With your ballots in the mail, I thought some levy related information would be in order. First of all, the levy section on the back of your mail in ballot is for two years. It replaces the current levy that will expire after this year. It reflects a 3% increase of income per year of the current levy. The board set this at the current rate of inflation so support to schools does not go down by lost purchasing power. This is a smaller increase than the board approved two years ago in our last levy, but it is sufficient. The district has cut costs and obtained grants to offset higher prices for things such as fuel and supplies."

The proposed new levy, if passed, is scheduled to raise $593,280 at an estimated cost of $2.58 per thousand of assessed property value in 2009 and $611,078 at an estimated cost of $2.55 per thousand in 2010. The current expiring M & O levy of $576,000 is costing taxpayers an estimated $2.60 per thousand of assessed value. Local taxpayers are also paying off a building bond issue at a cost of $1.19 per thousand of assessed value. "The estimated rates are lower than 2008 because new construction and increased timber values have expanded the tax base," levy supporters say in a bulletin mailed to district postal patrons.

Bennett continued, "Because of our expanding tax base, the out of pocket costs to taxpayers for the school levy are actually less than they were five years ago. We have had land development and new construction within the 204 square miles of our district. Thus, there are more taxpayers sharing the burden of the M & O tax.. We still don't have the industries to help, but every new home lowers the cost for the rest of us. The levy amount has gone up slowly over the years, but the out of pocket cost, which is what really matters, has actually gone down a bit. The board looks closely at the burden on taxpayers and for that reason chooses 2 year levies. Although they are more work for the district, they allow for a quicker response to changing economic climates.

"A factor that is important for taxpayers to understand, is that the amount the state authorizes the district to collect is well below what we actually have asked for in a levy. For 2008, the levy is $576,000. The levy lid that we could ask for is $682,375. This reflects the fact that the district is asking for over $100,000 less than it could ask because we are working hard to get grants and lower our overhead costs so we don't need to ask for more money from the taxpayers. "We have to be creative. Our district simply doesn't have the tax base from businesses that many of our surrounding districts do. Another factor is levy equalization. The state pays us money for levy equalization every year because we have a limited tax base. Since our tax base has been expanding, we are getting a few thousand a year less from the state. That means we have to raise the levy about $3,000 per year just to offset this cost. It doesn't get us any new money, it just replaces money we would otherwise lose.

"Wahkiakum County, due to their revenue shortfalls, has also cut 100% of the funding we had previously received. This accounts for $15,000 per year less in revenue. Put these all together and you can see why we have to work so hard to keep the levy as low as we can while maintaining quality education for children. Cutting costs and getting grants are how we do it. We cut costs in several ways. The weatherization and lighting improvements the district did two summers ago have now paid themselves off and are saving the district over $10,000 per year in electrical costs. ...

"If you have questions regarding the levy, don't hesitate to ask," Bennett concluded.

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