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Levy on February ballot will assist JBLM schools

Taxpayers will see no increase

Students at Hillside Elementary use technology to support their learning. The Replacement Levy helps the district in keeping up-to-date technology in front of students and teachers in the classroom. Photo courtesy Clover Park School District

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The levy on the Feb. 11 ballot for the Clover Park School District might appear to be a new tax.

It's not.

In 2016, voters approved a levy for the district, which expires in 2020. Schools on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) are part of the district. The Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy on the upcoming ballot will renew the existing levy through the 2024-2025 school year.

"It provides critical funding for us," said Clover Park superintendent Ron Banner. "The state has underfunded education for many years." Banner explained how the levy would cover nine percent of the district's budget. That amounts to approximately $23 million of a roughly $240 million annual budget.

The levy is necessary because funding provided by the state of Washington only covers expenses of basic education.

Basic education is described on the Washington State Legislature website -- -- as "an evolving program of instruction that is intended to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible and respectful global citizens, to contribute to their economic well-being and that of their families and communities, to explore and understand different perspectives, and to enjoy productive and satisfying lives."

The legislative description of basic education provides a list of the components of a basic education.

"Read with comprehension, write effectively, and communicate successfully in a variety of ways and settings and with a variety of audiences; know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical, and life sciences; civics and history, including different cultures and participation in representative government; geography; arts; and health and fitness; think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate technology literacy and fluency as well as different experiences and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; and understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities."

Other essential programs within a school district must be paid for from other sources. These include school safety and security, technology and extracurricular activities.

Banner listed some of the security measures as lunchroom and playground supervision, buzzer-controlled entrances at the schools and fencing, which the district is in the process of implementing. The school resource officers at the middle and high school levels would be funded by the levy, too.

Clover Park School District contracts with the Lakewood Police Department. "The levy supports our contract with them, with a cost of approximately $400,000,"

The levy will enable Clover Park schools to maintain class sizes, and provide textbooks and library materials. Staff training is covered by the levy, as well.

Transportation to and from extracurricular activities would also be funded. Not only is transportation for programs held after regular school hours funded by the levy, Banner said, but clubs and activities such as athletic programs.

Programs for students requiring extra help with studies and the Highly Capable program for youngsters needing additional challenges would be paid for with the levy.

Banner described the state's calculation of 13.5 percent of the total student population having special education needs.

But in the Clover Park district, 17.4 percent of students require special education services, according to Banner. Part of that higher number is due to JBLM being a compassionate base, with children of military personnel requiring special education services. The financial impact is significant. "That's $3.3 million above what the state covers," Banner said.

Mental health and behavioral interventions are funded by the proposed levy. The district contracts with Greater Lakes Mental Health, and employs school counselors and nurses, none of which is covered by the state.

The cost to taxpayers for the levy is no more than $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. It is estimated that $23.1 million would be raised for each of the four years the levy would be in place. Seniors who qualify as low income and individuals with disabilities could be exempt from property taxes. The Pierce County website,, provides information on possible property tax exemptions.

If the Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy fails to pass, Banner said the district would be required to make cuts that would impact many programs that benefit the students.

Banner remains hopeful. "I do believe our community cares."

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