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Strong community support for levy

February 13, 2018                                                   

Richland School District residents approved two four-year levy propositions on Tuesday night. The initial results from the Benton County Auditor’s office are:

  • Proposition #1Educational Programs Levy - 68% yes vote

  • Proposition #2Technology Levy - 66% yes vote

“Thank you to our community for this positive result,” said Superintendent Rick Schulte. “Election results like this attract quality teachers and support staff to the Richland School District. It brings families to our community who value education, and who, in turn, support businesses and other services.”

"We appreciate our community’s strong tradition of supporting RSD students through local levy support," stated Rick Jansons, President of the Richland School Board. “Approval of these two measures is especially gratifying given the changes and confusion following the state legislature’s action last year.”

Local levy money makes up about 19% of the Richland School District operating budget.

Image Title: Levy dollars help fund the District's One-to-One Chromebook initiative.
Levy dollars help fund the District's One-to-One Chromebook initiative.
Image Title: Local levy money supports RSD music programs.
Local levy money supports RSD music programs.
Image Title: Levy money also supports library programs.
Levy money also supports library programs.
Image Title: Athletics and activities are funded with local levy money.
Athletics and activities are funded with local levy money.


Replacement Levy Election

The Richland School District is placing a local levy before voters on February 13. This four-year levy is comprised of two propositions:

#1 Educational Programs Levy

#2 Technology Levy

  • The 2019-2022 levy is not a new tax.
  • The current levy expires at the end of 2018.
  • RSD residents are being asked to renew the levy.
  • The levy allows the District to continue essential programs which are not fully funded by the state.

2019-2022 levy... two propositions $2.00 total tax rate

As a result of new state regulations, what used to be one levy proposition must now be split into two propositions. The total of the two replacement propositions is less than the expiring levy.....

#1 Educational Programs Levy - $1.50/$1,000

  • Athletics and activities
  • Staff training
  • Course offerings (i.e. zero hour, advanced placement, special education)
  • Necessary staff (i.e. adequate number of nurses and paraprofessionals)
  • Teacher pay for extra time
  • Art, music and PE programs
  • Updated instructional materials
  • Extra math and reading help

#2 Technology Levy - $0.50/$1,000

  • Staff training
  • Replacing technology equipment - 15,000 devices over 4-5 years


Video: State Supt. Reykdal On the Importance of Local School Levies

Learn more at this Tri-Cities School Levy web site.

Learn more in this TV interview with Superintendent Rick Schulte.

Learn more in this KONA Radio interview with Superintendent Rick Schulte.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Exactly what is funded by the state, because the items under the heading #1 Educational Programs Levy in the Voter's Pamphlet appear to include many elements essential to a basic education system (e.g., "Course offerings," "Necessary staff," "Art, music and PE programs," and "Updated instructional materials")?

A. Yes, there is a lot of overlap between what the state defines as basic education and what the district is including as enrichment under the local levy. The state’s definition of basic education is exactly that, “basic,” which means fairly limited. The state’s use of the term basic education is not clearly defined in a single place, but could be found in a variety of locations and statutes. One circular aspect of the state’s definition of basic ed is that it includes what the state is willing to fund, whether or not that covers the actual costs of needed staff, time, or programs.

The state’s statutes on basic education, in various places, include such things as a list of subject areas that must be taught (reading, writing, math, civics, social studies, science, art, PE, really all that you might expect, but only as very general categories).  Only PE includes a legislated time requirement, of 100 minutes per week.

The statute also requires that basic ed includes 180 days of school for students, but does not say how long each day must be. Any days above the 180 days, such as days for staff training or preparation, are not part of basic education funding. In lieu of defining the length of a day, the statute requires a minimum average of 1,027 hours per school year for grades K – 12. Richland, like many school districts, averages more than this minimum, so everything above the minimum hour requirement is enrichment above basic ed.

The statute specifies a basic education “prototypical school” funding and staffing model, based on an elementary school of 400 students, a middle school of 432 students, and a high school of 600 students. This model then lists a variety of staff positions from principal to teacher to nurse to custodian and more, with the number of staff for each prototypical school. There is no necessary or required connection between the model and the actual staffing. So for example, the model would specify and fund staffing for school nurses for Richland at two nurses for our 13,500 students spread among our 17 school sites. We view this as severely underfunded and understaffed, so we have 8 school nurses. This illustrates how in any particular category of staff or spending there may be a mixture of state and local funding.

The same prototypical funding model is used for other basic ed expenses. So for another example, the formula includes a figure for utilities. The same formula applies everywhere in the state, regardless of the relative needs for heating or cooling. Hence, the district here must supplement state utility funding with local dollars. Similarly, the state basic ed funding for student transportation is based on a formula taking into account miles driven, student distance from school, and the number of students on buses at measured distances from their schools. The formula does not account for such added distances generated by a river with only two bridges, requiring a bus trip that extends further than it would if more straight-line routes were available. The result is that the district must supplement state transportation funds with local dollars.

Special ed funding is based on the number of students, not to exceed 12.7% of enrollment even if more students are identifies as eligible, times a fixed dollar amount. The fixed dollar amount does not distinguish between students with severe needs and very high cost interventions versus those with mild needs at lower costs. Since the district’s special ed student population includes significant numbers of students with high needs, the state funding does not cover the actual costs of educating those students. Again, local dollars are required to make up the difference.

Similar calculations occur almost across the board for virtually all aspect of district programs.

Q.  The Voter's Pamphlet cover highlights "essential programs" not fully funded by the state.  What is the school board s/district's definition of "essential programs?"  Please provide specific examples of some of those programs deemed essential for a quality education.

A.  High on the district’s list of essential programs not fully funded by the state are those mentioned above such as school nurses and special ed, but also programs for gifted and talented, music, art, school counselors, library, and all extracurricular activities, clubs, and athletics.

I can’t think of any school program that is fully funded by the state.

Q.  Under the heading "A RECORD TO BE PROUD OF" in rhe Voter's Pamphlet, 11,000 new Chromebooks is listed. But above that section in the description of the #2 Technology Levy it mentions replacing "15,000 devices over 4-5 years."  In which grade do students begin using portable computers?  Are those devices assigned to each individual student or are they shared?  In either case, are they allowed to be taken to a student's residence?  What controls are installed to prevent misuse and unauthorized access to internet sites?

A.  There are a number of questions here. Chromebooks are one type of computer “device.” In addition to Chromebooks, the district has a variety of other computer devices, ranging from CAD labs at the high school to videography labs in CTE, to desk top computers in libraries and offices, to laptops in special ed settings, to tablets in some early childhood settings. I am also including such items as servers and printers among technology “devices” that are on a replacement cycle.

As early as Kindergarten, students are using tablet computers. Students at all grade levels use a variety of computer devices in classrooms and in libraries and labs. Some devices are shared and some are assigned to individual students. All new instructional materials and textbooks include online resources requiring individual student computers. Some applications for specific uses such as in science classes or vocational classes require unique computers that are shared among several students

This year for the first time middle school students have been assigned personal computers they may take home. Homework assignments often require that these computers be available at home, unless the family has its own computers for student use at home. We anticipate expanding take-home Chromebooks to the high schools next year. We do not expect to do this with elementary students.

The district has a robust internet filtering utility that prevents access to objectionable site when using the district internet service. This filter also works on district computers when they are taken home. The filter does not work for student cell phones accessing the internet directly on a student data plan, but it does work if they access the district internet service. No technical filter is 100% successful all the time, so we teach internet safety and appropriate use to all students, and teachers monitor student use in school. We encourage parents to monitor student use at home.

Q. In the FAQ, one of the answers states ". . .The state provides this money to school districts which have relatively low property values so students in less affluent or smaller districts receive a comparable education. . ."  How does the RSD qualify for state matching funds considering the high property values in the communities it covers?  Presumably, each district receives funding based upon its geographic circumstances?

A.  Eligibility for state matching funds for local levies is a function of the relative per pupil assessed valuation in a district compared to the state average. By this measure, the assessed value per student in Richland (and all districts in the Tri-Cities area) is below the state average assessed value per student. To understand why this is true, consider the urban areas in western Washington with many high-value (and high-rise) businesses, compared to districts here that are dominated by residential housing and farmland. One example I am very familiar with is a district that has five oil refineries with a high property value and that therefore pay most of the school district taxes, with relatively few taxes paid by homeowners. In Richland, our largest employer and biggest business (the Hanford area) is federal property and pays no local or state property taxes. As a result, our assessed value per student is well below state average and we qualify for state levy matching funds.