Sumner schools to place two levies on Feb. 11 ballot

Academics: Technology levy aims to put a computer in hands of every student by 2017

of the HeraldJanuary 22, 2014 

Voters who live within the Sumner School District will be asked to approve a $20 million renewal of the four-year maintenance and operations levy and a $2.5 million technology capital levy on the Feb. 11 special election ballot.

Ballots will be mailed on Jan. 24, according to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office.

The maintenance and operations levy would continue to fund 20 percent of the district’s budget, according to district staff members. It provides funding for regular curriculum programs; teachers and para-educators, training and development; student transportation; building maintenance; textbooks, classroom supplies and library materials.

The maintenance and operations levy would replace the current levy that will expire Dec. 31.

The technology levy aims to provide a computer to every student in the district by 2017, Superintendent Sara Johnson said.

“This levy puts technology in the hands of kids,” said Debbie Campbell, the district’s executive director of business services. “We already spent $5 million out of our surplus capital funds to add fiber and set up the technology infrastructure.”

In a pilot program, Chromebooks were provided to every third- and fourth-grade student in the district this past year.

The levy would be at about 48 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Sandy Maynard, chief technology officer for the district, said those who own a home valued at $200,000 in 2015 would pay about $96 per year.

“We haven’t presented a tech levy to our voters since 1996,” Maynard said. “We’ve been using as much district money to take care of technology.”

As many as eight districts in Pierce County have technology levies on the Feb. 11 ballot. That’s largely due to a new mandate set by the state Legislature that all students must complete assessment testing online by 2015.

Johnson said the district plans to continue to “leverage relationships and partnerships” with private business and community groups to provide technology in the classroom in addition to the levy.

Partnerships include Amazon, Newland Communities, private donors, parent-teacher associations and parent-teacher organizations.

If the technology levy passes, district administrators said the school environment would be unlike anything before.

“It’s going to be a sea change,” Campbell said.

For the maintenance and operations levy, the current tax rate is $3.71 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The district received $1.6 million of local effort assistance from the state this year. In addition, $18 million was collected in a levy rollback, compared with the district’s $21 million authority. That dropped the levy rate to $3.71 from $3.96.

Campbell said the authority for the renewal of the levy is $20 million in 2015, but that could roll back to about $18 million, should the district receive the same amount of local effort assistance.

The published tax rate for the maintenance and operations levy starting in 2015 is $3.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The technology levy would add a rate of 48 cents to equal a total tax rate of $4.33 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For a $200,000 property, homeowners would pay up to $124 more per year in taxes.

Campbell said the LEA deductions and the assessed value decreases or increases will determine the final tax rate.

“We’re optimistic that assessed values in construction in our community will continue to rise, and our tax rate will be very similar to what it is now,” Campbell said.

New commercial and home construction in Sumner in 2013 nearly tripled, Campbell said. There is an anticipated 7 percent increase in assessed value in the Sumner School District this year, Campbell said.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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