Ridgefield School Board approves putting levy extension on ballot

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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The Ridgefield school board Tuesday evening approved placing a three-year maintenance and operations levy on the February ballot. The levy would replace an expiring levy, and if approved would increase taxes for district residents.

The school district would use the levy proceeds to maintain some educational services, while growing others, said Superintendent Art Edgerly. The district is in the middle of a facilities and program expansion.

"We're trying to provide the students the best education possible," he said.

A high priority would be placed on the district's new science, technology, engineering and mathematics program, otherwise known as STEM, which started at View Ridge Middle School last year.

The school district wants to expand the program in future years, so students can continue taking technology classes as they progress through high school.

Moving forward

But it all costs money. And as the school district plans to move forward with a $49 million districtwide expansion of its campuses, more money will likely be expended on utility costs.

Edgerly said he did not know how much those new costs would be.

The proposed levy would result in an increase to the current rate of $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed home value, or $440 a year for a home valued at $200,000.

In its first year, 2014, the levy would raise $4.1 million, with an estimated tax rate of $2.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Tax rates would also increase in 2015 and 2016, to $2.38 and $2.46 per $1,000 respectively, generating $4.3 million and $4.5 million in those two years.

A homeowner with a property valued at $200,000 could expect to pay $460, $476 and $492 in each of the three years.

The school district is uncertain about the future of K-12 education at the state level, Edgerly said, so officials want to err on the side of caution moving forward.

Citizens for Ridgefield Schools will lead the campaign for the levy starting at the end of the month.

'Good stewards for education'

Jim Maul, a member of the organization, said he believes district voters will support an increase in taxes.

"I think it's kind of in the context of the Ridgefield district being good stewards for education," Maul said. "While it's a slight increase, it is responding to the community wanting STEM."

The levy is the seventh scheduled to appear on the Feb. 12 ballot. It will join two each from the Vancouver and Camas school districts, and one each from Battle Ground and La Center. The Washougal School District is expected to discuss a levy at the beginning of the year.