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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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‘Critical amount of money’: Camas School District replacement levies to be on February ballot

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CAMAS — Camas School District voters will soon decide the fate of the district’s educational programs and operations and capital-technology levies that fund a variety of programs, extracurriculars, technology needs and building maintenance not covered by state educational funds.

The Camas School Board voted unanimously to go out for two, four-year replacement levies during the February 2024 special election.

“This is a very critical amount of money that goes to some very, very direct support for our schools,” Camas School District Superintendent John Anzalone said Monday during the school board’s regular meeting.

Anzalone said that after reaching out to various stakeholders including parents, students, community members, teachers and principals, he was recommending “flat rate” educational programs and operations and capital-technology levies that would not raise taxes while still bringing in nearly $1 million in new revenues for non-state-funded programs and facilities or technology needs.

“I feel the message of ‘no new taxes’ will really resonate … and reflect guidance from our stakeholders,” Anzalone told school board members.

Camas School Board President Corey McEnry added that while Camas voters have historically approved the school district’s levies by wide margins, recent elections throughout Clark County have shown it is getting more difficult for many regional school districts to pass their educational programs and operations and capital-technology levies.

The district’s director of business services, Jasen McEathron, showed the school board the results of Clark County school district levy elections held in February in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Of the 11 districts with levy propositions on the ballot, nearly half lost their elections: Battle Ground in 2021, Evergreen and La Center in 2022, and Washougal and Woodland in 2023.

If voters approve the Camas School District’s replacement levies, taxpayers will pay the same rate in 2024 that they currently pay for the educational programs and operations ($1.82 per $1,000 assessed property value) and capital-technology (39 cents per $1,000 assessed property value) levies. That rate will cost the owner of a $750,000 home $1,658 a year — $1,365 for the educational programs and operations levy, and $293 for the capital-technology levy in 2024.

If voters OK the replacement levies, the district is expected to collect $19,131,728 from the educational programs and operations levy in 2025 — a $911,035 increase in revenues over 2024 — without raising the tax rate. Camas School District administrators expect the flat-rate educational programs and operations levy also would collect $19.7 million in 2026, $20.3 million in 2027 and $20.91 million in 2028.

“The existing (educational programs and operations) levy accounts for about 15 percent of the general fund revenues,” Anzalone explained in his report to the school board. “As in years past, the district’s plan will be to invest local levy funds in the (extracurricular) activities for students, professional development for staff and additional positions beyond the prototypical school-funding model.”

Anzalone said the existing state school-funding models “do not meet local expectations for security/safety, maintenance and operations … and staff to serve the social-emotional-health needs of (Camas) students.

“Furthermore, state and federal funding falls short of our community’s expectations and our legal obligations to provide a free and appropriate education to our students with special needs,” Anzalone said.

The superintendent added that the district’s capital-technology levy provides roughly 98 percent of the district’s hardware and software purchases.

“We also have ongoing capital maintenance needs that keep our students dry, warm and safe,” Anzalone noted in his report to the school board.

The replacement capital-technology levy is expected to collect $4.15 million in 2025, $4.27 million in 2026, $4.4 million in 2027 and $4.53 million in 2028. Anzalone noted that the capital-technology levy funds would allow the school district to invest $9.3 million in technology, including computers, Chromebooks and security cameras; $6 million in roof repairs at Camas High and Liberty Middle schools; $700,000 for boilers at Camas High School; and $1.3 million for turf replacements at Cardon Field and Doc Harris Stadium.

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