Battle Ground schools to ask voters for levy maximum

District residents to weigh in on 4-year request in February

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The Battle Ground School Board on Saturday approved a four-year levy request for educational programs and maintenance and operations. The matter will be on the Feb. 12 ballot.

If approved, it will replace the existing voter-approved levy when it expires in December 2013.

Board members John Idsinga, Monty Anderson, Steve Pagel, Mavis Nickels and Ken Root voted unanimously to seek the four-year levy for the maximum allowed by state law.

The levy would raise $24,420,000 in 2014, its first year, up from the $22.6 million in 2013 that voters approved in 2010. Under the replacement levy, the tax rate in 2014 would be an estimated $4.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which would be $889 for the year on a $200,000 home.

In subsequent years, the levy would raise: $25,350,000 in 2015 (an estimated $4.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value); $26,300,000 in 2016 (estimated $4.51 per $1,000) and $27,250,000 in 2017 (estimated $4.46 per $1,000).

“With the substantial cuts in state financial support to schools over the past four years, our needs are great,” Superintendent Shonny Bria said in a prepared statement. “The children will be the direct beneficiaries if voters approve this levy, but the whole community will reap the rewards.”

Idsinga, board president, said the rewards include “a stronger community with higher property values and better education for our kids, which means more and better jobs in the future.”

Numerous costs

Gregg Herrington, district spokesman, said the levy money pays for all or a major part of numerous school district expenses, including assistant principals; 95 additional certified personnel (including classroom teachers, reading specialists, middle school counselors and teacher librarians); and curriculum materials and textbooks.

It also would help pay for after-school activities in the middle schools and support primary and middle school music and art programs; the English Language Learners program; school site maintenance and school busing.

The levy also would increase technology services and computer purchases.

The 104-year-old Battle Ground district has nearly 13,000 students and sprawls across 271 square miles — 43 percent of Clark County’s area. The school district’s busing expenses, which are only partly covered by the state, were $519 per student in 2010-11, compared to the statewide average of $359, Bria said.

Bria added that the district spends $8,827 per pupil each year, compared to the state average of $9,696.

The board’s action followed a daylong meeting that began with a moment of silence for Isabelle Helen Sarkinen, an eighth-grade student at Chief Umtuch Middle School who died last week.

About 75 people attended the Saturday session. Three public meetings had been held earlier.

Herrington said, “The board’s decision to seek the maximum allowed by state law was not made until the plan had been established, with many proposals deleted in the process order to bring down costs.”