Monroe asks voters to renew learning levy
MONROE - The Monroe School District is asking voters to renew its learning levy for another two years in a Feb. 14 special election.
The levy would collect almost $32 million over two years.
The average homeowner in Monroe pays about $784 for the current levy that is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. If renewed, the levy would cost the average homeowner about $832 in 2013 and $881 in 2014, according to county estimates on home values.
The cost to run the schools is not covered by what is provided by the state, making local levies more and more of a necessity, school district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said.
And the state Supreme Court agreed. Earlier this month, the court ruled the state isn’t adequately funding K-12 education, its paramount duty in the state Constitution.
The Supreme Court ruling backs an existing law that requires the state to fully fund education by 2018. So as a result of the ruling, more money won’t be rolling into local districts any time soon.
The Legislature once again is in the midst of addressing a budget shortfall, another $1.5 billion. Education is still on the chopping block.
Levies used to provide extra funding for program enhancements or special programs. Now, they provide 22 percent of the budget for the Monroe School District.
If approved, the learning levy would provide $15.5 million to the district in 2013 and $16.4 million in 2014. The levy voters approved four years ago expires in December 2012 and will collect $14.6 million this year.
If it fails in February, the district will have another chance this year to pass it. State law allows school districts to ask voters twice in a year to pass a funding measure.
“A double levy failure would force the opening of all of our labor contracts and through the negotiations of those labor contracts and working with our community we would have to cut out 22 percent, almost a quarter, of everything we do,” O’Neil said.
How that would look, bigger class sizes or fewer teachers, would depend on what the community and the unions hammered out, she said.
“All of that would be a process our community and labor groups would have to go through to determine,” O’Neil said. “It is not pretty.”
A 2012 election guide on the school district’s website lists a few of the things the learning levy funds. They include providing academic programs for struggling learners; buying classroom supplies and textbooks; attracting and keeping quality teachers and staff with competitive wages; maintaining school buildings; art and music instruction; transportation to and from school, other school activities and athletics; and offering after-school activities and athletic programs.
If the replacement levy is approved, the average taxpayer will see an increase of about $8 more per month by the second year of the levy – about $4 more per month in the first year and another approximately $4 increase per month the second year.
Currently, Monroe is near the middle on a list of how much homeowners in local school districts pay for school taxes, at $4.39 per $1,000 of assessed home value.
The owner of the average home in the county, valued at $240,500, pays about $1,055.80 in school taxes in Monroe, compared to the highest in Granite Falls at $1,414.14. The lowest is in Stanwood, at $743.15. Monroe is the sixth lowest amount on the list of 14 districts.
For more information about the levy, go to http://www.monroe.wednet.edu/PAGES/ELECTION_INFO_PAGES/election-info2012.html.
Groups are welcome to invite Rosemary O’Neil and Superintendent Ken Hoover to present factual information and answer questions, O’Neil said.
“For any specific questions that anyone has, they are welcome to call me directly,” she said. Her phone number is 360-804-2503.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Jan. 18, 2012