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Wahluke School District to vote on new levy

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 20, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — The Wahluke School District has a three-year, $4.5 million levy on the Feb. 9 ballot to pay for capital improvements and safety projects.

“We have facilities that have been well maintained and have exceeded their life expectancies,” said Andy Harlow, Wahluke School District interim superintendent. “Mattawa Elementary’s roof is 40 years old and it’s the original.”

Harlow said over the years, the district’s facilities have been repaired as needed, but no money has been set aside to undertake major, planned repairs.

“I think a little bit of it is a lack of planning on the district’s part that got us into this situation,” Harlow said. “We’ve had many years of repairing existing things and not looking forward.”

Harlow said some of the roofs in the districts have been repaired so much future repairs will require old repairs to be removed. Items up for repair are roofs at Saddle Mountain Elementary and Mattawa Elementary.

“It’s not very exciting,” Harlow said. “It’s a roof.”

While those roofs may not be full of glitz and glam, they will save the district from having to replace items destroyed by water damage, as it had to do last year after a rain storm caused $20,000 in computer damage.

In addition to a new roof, Saddle Mountain Elementary is in need of HVAC replacements in the main building and the gymnasium, as well as hallway carpet replacement. Mattawa Elementary and Wahluke Junior High need modernized fire alarm systems. Wahluke Junior High, Saddle Mountain Elementary and Mattawa Elementary all need new scoreboards. Wahluke High School’s parking lot needs to be resurfaced. And the entire district needs modern security cameras new building keys, as well as updates to irrigation systems.

To help prevent this kind of situation in the future, Harlow is working with district maintenance director Matt Hyndman to develop a long-term repair plan. He said he thought about passing the planning onto his successor, but decided the new person would appreciate having the planning done. Harlow hopes to fund future repair projects by funneling some money from the general education fund into savings.

“That’s the long-term plan,” Harlow said. “In the short term, we have facilities that need roofs and AC units.”

Over the next three years, the district hopes to collect $1.5 million per year in property taxes.

In 2022, the amount to be collected would be an estimated $1.90 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The following year would go down four cents to $1.86 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For 2024, it would be an estimated $1.82 per $1,000 of assessed property value. So over three years, the district would receive a total of $4.5 million in tax dollars for repairs and upgrades.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.