B.G. schools ask again on levy

District warns of consequences if voters repeat 'No'

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Levy campaign

Battle Ground Citizens for Better Schools meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Battle Ground High School cafeteria to discuss campaigning for the April 23 vote.

• Information:http://bgschools.org, https://facebook.com/pages/Battle-Ground-Citizens-for-Better-Schools/270292639655576?ref=ts&fref=ts

Levy request

• 2014: $24.4 million, which would cost taxpayers an estimated $4.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

• 2015: $25.4 million, for an estimated $4.52 per $1,000.

• 2016: $26.3 million, for an estimated $4.51 per $1,000.

• 2017: $27.3 million, for an estimated $4.46 per $1,000.

BATTLE GROUND -- The Battle Ground School District is taking a second shot at the same levy request that voters rejected this month.

In a packed meeting Monday that lasted seven hours, the board unanimously voted to put the four-year maintenance and operations levy on the April 23 ballot.

Battle Ground was the only district among 50 in the state to fail its maintenance and operations levy on Feb. 12. Only 46.52 percent of voters supported the levy; 53.48 percent voted "No."

Much is at stake if the levy does not pass April 23.

"If the levy doesn't pass the second time, the district attempts to balance the budget on its own," said MaryBeth Lynn, the district's assistant superintendent for finance and school operations. That means the district would have to cut $16.4 million from the current budget. She explained that the district also would lose another $6.1 million in levy equalization funds from the state. Battle Ground receives this money because it's a rural, property-poor district lacking an industrial base.

Tim Merlino, chief financial officer for Educational Service District 112, said that if the levy fails in April and the district does not balance the budget, the task of dissolving the district will be handed over to a financial oversight committee comprising him, a financial officer from another ESD and financial officers from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The district shares boundaries with eight other districts. A regional committee would draw new boundary lines to disperse the former Battle Ground students, but Merlino added, "We're premature with this discussion. Dissolution of a district is the final option."

If the levy fails on its second try, the district would have to wait until 2014 to put the levy before voters a third time, said John Idsinga, board president, and money could not be collected until spring 2015.

The board's vote was preceded by lengthy citizen comment.

"What's going to happen to your property values when people don't want to move here because the district isn't well-rated?" asked Rita Sanders, whose children attend the Tukes Valley schools. "Parents, business owners, Rotary, preschool parents, we need to rally behind the citizens group."

Lynda Carlsen, who has children in the district, said, "I've always voted yes on levies, but there isn't enough information out there."

Carlsen said she has concerns about losing instructional time to teacher prep time.

"What I'm hearing is, we have to cut $16 million to balance the budget. What does that involve?" asked Ron Richter.

"Historically, I've been a yes voter, but my kids are out of the system. I did vote no. I believe you need to lower the levy amount," said Gary Mills, who identified himself as a landlord.

The district in the north of Clark County has a history of not passing its levies on the first try. It's failed 14 maintenance and operations levies since 1983. Its last double-levy failure was in 2006.

"The work has just begun," said Idsinga.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4530; http://twitter.com/col_schools; susan.parrish@columbian.com.