At its Nov. 20 meeting, the Lakewood School District Board of Directors approved proposing replacement levies for educational programs and operations, and technology and capital improvements on the Feb. 11, 2020 ballot. The current levies expire at the end of 2020. The Replacement Levy for Educational Programs and Operations (2021-2024) pays for the difference between the funding that the state provides and what it actually costs to educate Lakewood students. Programs and staffing funded by this levy include athletics, clubs, music and drama programs, curriculum resources for general and special education, mental health and social-emotional supports for students, school safety resources (including our School Resource Officer) and other educational programs and operations expenses that maintain existing programs. The collection rate for this levy is expected to drop from $2.17 to $2.12 per $1,000 of assessed property value between 2021-24.
The Replacement Levy for Technology and Capital Improvements pays for computer upgrades and replacements for students and staff, audio/video tools that enhance classroom instruction, digital network enhancements and security improvements such as cameras, fencing and electronic access systems. Other improvements include fire sprinklers, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and pedestrian safety at identified schools. The collection rate for this levy is expected to remain at 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value between 2021-24.
The school board also approved tax collection rates for 2020 under the current Educational Programs and Operations Levy, approved by voters in 2016. The new collection rate will increase from the 2019 rate of $1.50 to an estimated $2.18 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2020. This increase became necessary because the state reduced voter-approved local tax collections by nearly 50% for Lakewood in 2019 as it increased funding under the “McCleary” legislation. The tax rollback still left a funding gap for Lakewood and many other school districts trying to maintain existing programs and services. Our district is also reducing spending and leveraging state/federal grants to address this funding gap.
While the 2020 collection rate is a substantial increase, combined state and local school taxes will continue to be significantly less than previous years. Combined state and local school tax rates will continue to be rolled back to a historically low level, estimated at $7.03 per $1,000 assessed property value. Combined state and local school tax rates ranged from $7.38 to $7.85 between 2013 and 2018.
There will be a budget and levy forum Dec. 11 at Lakewood High School from 4-5 p.m. for community members who have questions or would like to learn more. Details can also be found on the Business Office page of the Lakewood School District website at www.lwsd.wednet.edu.
Scott Peacock is superintendent of the Lakewood School District, which has a monthly column in this newspaper.