Saturday, July 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tacoma voters face levies for school, tech upgrades

Tacoma residents face two school levy votes on Feb. 11. Both would replace levies that voters approved in 2010, but that will expire later this year.

The levy dollars from the propositions represent about a quarter of the Tacoma School District's operational budget and would keep the tax rate at the same rate property owners currently pay.

Proposition 1 would pay for teaching materials and fund hiring more teachers so students have smaller class sizes. The money would go toward everything from sports and arts programs to special educational efforts and basic school materials. It will also fund options for higher-achieving students and support programs for children who are falling behind educational standards.

Proposition 1 would raise about $86 million during the four years covered by the tax measure. The average homeowner would pay about $21.25 a year during the span of the Proposition 1 levy. That breaks down to about $1.77 a month.

That tax bill is actually higher than what property owners pay now for the levy that is set to expire. However, the smaller package in Proposition 2 would even out the total to the current overall levy taxes landowners pay for schools. Combined, the propositions would cost $5.29 per $1,000 in property value through 2018, the same rate land owners pay now.

Proposition 2 would replace the technology levy that is set to expire. The $40 million collected during the four-year levy would replace outdated computers at a time when almost half of the school district computers are about to fall below the state standards. Proposition 2 would also pay for training, software, upgrades and expanded computer and technology access for students, particularly through mobile devices. The technology upgrades would come at a cost of $3.35 per month, or $40.15 per year, for the average Tacoma homeowner.

Both levies have received endorsements from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the League of Women Voters, Tacoma's Parent-Teacher Board and the Education Association. Continual gadfly and current Pierce County Jail inmate Robert Hill is the official opposition of the propositions and has only a handful of followers on his campaign's official Facebook page.