NASELLE - Mail-in ballots for the Feb. 7 election will be sent to local voters shortly. Alan Bennett, superintendent of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District, presented the following information on the two year school district maintenance and operations replacement levy.

Bennett said, "At the November board meeting, the school board passed a resolution to put the maintenance and operational levy on a Feb. 7 ballot. This will replace the levy that is expiring at that time. To make things as easy to understand as possible, I will address informational items in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) format."

Q: Is this a new levy?

A: No, this levy replaces the one that will expire in 2006.

Q: Will my taxes go up?

A: Actually, if timber values stay at current levels, your taxes should go down. The levy rate reflects the value of homes, land and timber. In the past year, the timber values have gone up and that takes the load off the individual taxpayer. The rates should be lower than they have been.

Q: My tax assessment went up. Is the school going to get extra money?

A: Actually, the school district is only authorized to collect a set amount of money. For 2007 and 2008, that will be $576,000, if the levy passes. If tax assessed values go up, the district doesn't get more money. The rates are adjusted lower to collect the same amount of money.

Q: Why did the school board vote to increase the levy?

A: It has been $526,000 for the last four years. It has been kept at the same rate even though the district's costs have increased. At some point, the levy must increase, or cuts in programs would have to take place. This year we have really been hit with fuel increases for instance, and the increase in the levy will help offset those increases.

This is also a good time to address raising the levy because with the rise in timber values, the homeowner should have lower rates even though the district will receive more revenue. In rural areas, we are especially tied to the value of timber. We can raise the levy when timber values are up, but we need to hold them down when timber values are down. The school board is very aware of the tax burden the local citizens bear, and don't want to take undue advantage of their support.

Q: Why does the district need a levy anyway?

A: Well, ideally it would be for extra programs to benefit students that the state doesn't fund. The reality however, is that the state doesn't fully fund basic education. If we did not have levy dollars we would be short on dollars to run our transportation, sports, music and other extracurricular activities. Even such basic things as supplies would not be funded fully. Were it not for the support of the local taxpayers through levies, we would have a hard time doing business in general.

Q: What is the district doing to make the most of the money they have now?

A: We actually are working all the time to bring the most opportunities to our students that we can, and cut costs at the same time. Some specific examples of cost savings are: Reduced costs at Rosburg School. Although the school will revert to the county this August, we have cut costs there and increased revenues by renting out classrooms. Total savings for the year are at least $20,000.

We are actively pursuing grant opportunities. Last year, we added about $100,000 in technology to the school with grant monies.

We are employing strategies to conserve heating fuel, and therefore save money. The staff is working to make sure exterior doors stay shut so we don't lose heated air out of the building.

Individual heaters have been placed in three classrooms and the gym at the Rosburg School. This has allowed us to bring the overall building temperature down around the 60 degree range and thus save the district money. The old boiler uses 3 to 5 gallons of heating oil an hour! It would have cost about $27,000 just to heat this year alone, had we not done something different. It also makes it more feasible for the county to take over the school because individual renters will be able to pay for the propane they use. These heaters were paid for by Wahkiakum County, and procured by us. Our maintenance supervisor, Randy Tienhaara, oversaw and assisted with their installation. This has been a good partnership between the county and the district.

We replace busses on a regular basis with the money the state reimburses us for transportation. By budgeting the money years ahead for bus replacement, we don't need to run a transportation levy. We also maintain our busses to keep them in top notch working order. Our transportation supervisor, Ed Engelson does a great job of keeping the fleet running.

Q: How much really comes out of my pocket for this levy?

A: The levy for the year 2005, had a rate of $3.21 per thousand. An owner of a $100,000 home would have paid $321. If the new levy passes, the rate is estimated to be $3.11 in 2007, and $3.03 in 2008. That means for that same $100,000 house the actual cost would go down to $311 in 2007, and $303 in 2008.

Q: West end Wahkiakum taxpayers just were reassessed and many had their taxes go up. Are they carrying more of the load now?

A: Tax assessments are on a four-year cycle. Wahkiakum had their assessment done in 2005, Pacific County residents within our school boundary will have their property reassessed in 2006. By the time this levy takes effect in 2007, all taxpayers within the district will have new assessments. Remember, the school doesn't get more money if assessments go up; the rates are just adjusted lower so the net effect on the taxpayers is the same.

"Hopefully that answers some of your questions about the levy. If you have more, I'd be glad to discuss them with you. You can call me any day in the district office at 484-7123. My official hours are from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, although I'm often there at other times as well. Thanks for all your support of the school. We really have a great school and community. It is all of us, working together on behalf of the children, which make it that way," Bennett concluded.

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