MLSD levy voting closes April 23

Apr. 20—MOSES LAKE — Ballots should be returned by Tuesday in a special election that will decide the fate of a two-year educational programs and maintenance levy proposal from the Moses Lake School District.

The same proposal was rejected by voters in February, and Moses Lake School Board members voted 5-0 later that month to resubmit it. Board chair Kirrin Jensen said three of the current board members weren't involved in the original vote in November, because they hadn't been seated yet. They did vote to resubmit the proposal.

"With all new board members and a superintendent focused on honesty and accountability, we have an opportunity with this levy to show the community that the board will be accountable for the use of those funds," Jensen wrote in response to an email from the Columbia Basin Herald. "Levies pay for sports, school security and resource officers, security enhancements and activities that enrich a child's educational environment. This could be an opportunity for a fresh start and a transparent future for the Moses Lake School District."

If the levy is approved, property owners would pay $2 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If it's approved it would generate $15.78 million in the first year and $18.94 million in the second year.

A property owner with land valued at $300,000 would pay $600 per year. The owner of property valued at $350,000 would pay $700 per year in property taxes.

Because it's an EP&O levy, it requires a bare majority, 50% plus one vote, to pass.

The levy funds a significant portion of the district's school resource officer program, and board member Kevin Fuhr wrote the SRO program provides, in his opinion, a positive return for MLSD.

"As a school board member and former police chief for the city of Moses Lake, I understand the importance of providing a safe learning environment for our children," Fuhr wrote. "I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact that school resource officers have on kiddos in all our schools. Those officers are not only in schools to provide safety, they also provide mentorship and a person to talk to when kids are struggling with daily life. School levies provide funding for programs such as school resource officers and other school security staff to keep our children safe and secure within our school buildings. This is only one of the many programs the levy will fund when passed."

If the levy is approved, it would replace a three-year levy approved by district voters in 2021. That levy was $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Moses Lake Superintendent Monty Sabin said in earlier interviews that district officials know that's a big jump, but MLSD will be getting less money from the state at a time costs are increasing.

The district is projected to be losing about $7.5 million in state funding for the 2024-25 school year, Sabin said.

School districts like Moses Lake use the levy to fill gaps in funding and pay for programs that state money can't be used to fund. Extracurricular activities fall into that category; about $3.2 million of levy funding would go to those, which include elementary field trips, support for band, drama and speech programs, among other things, as well as sports.

While the district does receive state money allocated to school security, Sabin said that pays for the equivalent of one full-time and one part-time employee. The district actually contracts with the city of Moses Lake for four SROs and pays for eight additional security personnel. The difference is made up through the EP&O levy.

Ballots can be mailed but they must be postmarked by April 23 to be counted. People can ask for a hand cancellation to ensure the correct date. Ballots also can be left in the drop box behind the Moses Lake Civic Center, 104 South Balsam St.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at