Our Voice: Voters should support Columbia School District levy

Local taxes are crucial to school district budgets.

State money just isn’t enough. Without additional funding, activities like music, athletics and art suffer or are eliminated. It also means extra teachers and aides can’t be hired so class sizes increase and students who need extra help often don’t get it.

So that’s why we recommend voters in the Columbia School District in Burbank support the two tax levy requests before the Feb. 10 deadline.

One of the tax proposals is for maintenance and operation and the other is for technology. Voters approved both tax requests four years ago but they will expire if they are not replaced. Columbia school officials have crunched the numbers so the tax rate for the proposed maintenance and operation levy will be about the same as in 2014, which was $3.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The technology levy would add another 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, bringing the total to $3.81 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

So the two tax proposals combined would be $381 a year for someone who owns a $100,000 home.

The good news for voters is that property values in the community are improving and the debt for a construction bond approved in 1998 will expire in 2017. That means the combined tax rate is expected to drop from $5.59 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2015 down to $3.77 per $1,000 in 2018. Also, promising economic developments at Railex and the Burbank Business Park are expected to make a difference in tax valuations in the future by lowering what homeowners must pay.

Columbia school officials have been good financial stewards and their request for local funding is reasonable. It has been four years since the school district last ran a levy campaign, providing stability and reducing the cost of running elections.

During the 2013-14 school year, money from the maintenance and operation levy provided 21 percent of the Columbia School District budget. That’s a significant funding source that will go away if voters don’t replace it.

As for the technology levy, computers are now a necessity, not a luxury. The past levy money paid for interactive white boards in the classrooms, technology training for staff and tech support. Once a technology program is started, it needs to continue, otherwise, all the gains made will come to a halt.

Voters in the Columbia School District should support both school levies. It’s money well spent and the students deserve it.

The Herald recommends approving the Columbia School District levies for technology and maintenance.