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Grand Coulee Dam School District voters to decide on two levies

by R. HANS MILLER
Staff Writer | December 29, 2021 1:05 AM

The Grand Coulee Dam School District will have two levy propositions on the ballot for the Feb. 8, 2022, special election. The levies will be continuations of the capital, safety and technology levy and the educational programs and operations levy, according to the Grant County Elections Office.

“We’ve got some capital needs that need to be addressed,” said Grand Coulee Dam School District Superintendent Paul Turner. “This is our second go-around for it. We are finishing up. We’ve got one more year of a four-year levy, or four-year capital levy, and what we did with this past one was we upgraded and put in an HVAC system in our old gymnasium.”

Turner said the renewal of the capital levy would share space on the ballot with a levy to support maintenance and operations at the school. The capital projects levy, listed as proposition two on the ballot, would establish a rate of $1.70 per $1,000 of property value, while the maintenance and operations levy – also known as an enrichment levy under recent state laws – would continue at $2.50 per $1,000 valuation. The enrichment levy will appear as proposition one on the ballot for the district. Each of the levies has a four-year term, Turner said. The enrichment levy is expected to raise between $900,000 and $1 million annually to support day-to-day operations for district schools. The capital levy would provide about $500,000 in revenue for the district.

Turner said the district is in a unique situation due to the amount of federal land within its service area. Only about 10% of the land in the district is taxable, he said. Therefore, landowners who can be taxed pay more than if the expenses of the district were spread out among a larger taxable population.

Turner said the school district works to manage the expense to locals by partnering with the state legislature, which passed a law that funded a new high school for the district in 2014. The district also completes necessary building repairs and remodeling over time to manage the strain on the district’s financial supporters, but that has placed the district’s gymnasium in sore need of repairs and upgrades after a “sports complex” was eliminated from the state funding to build the new high school. Turner said legislators mistakenly took that to mean a new football stadium, rather than a gymnasium.

“So, we’re still using our old gym as our main gym,” Turner said. “So, we’re working with what we’ve got and this last go-around, we took the capital projects levy and we invested in that gym. We put in an HVAC system because we’ve never had one.”

Additional improvements to the physical fitness facility included repairing the floor, replacing asbestos wall paneling, new curtains on the gymnasium stage and air handling. The facility is still in need of new bleachers, remodeling of an attached administration building, improved air handling equipment and a remodel of the basement where the locker rooms are located. Electrical work is also needed throughout the athletic building to ensure it is safe for students, Turner said.

If the capital levy is approved, the district will also use proceeds from that levy to refurbish the Grand Coulee Alternative School. The facility needs a new roof and electrical work to make it safe.

“These crumbs from the capital levy, we’re going to stretch them as far as we can. We go after different grants to help us get there, but it’s a chore,” Turner said.

Turner said dates and times for public information meetings will be released in early January to ensure voters can speak with district administration regarding the levies and how funds will be used.

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