Levy Survey Results Provide Guidance to School District

Among those who responded to our survey, there is considerable support for the Colville School District replacement levy. Now, don’t worry, we’re not interpreting this to mean that everyone thinks we, or our schools, are perfect. On the contrary, we recognize that support for the levy is very much tempered by concerns about trust and accountability. Overall, though, it seems most agreed at least in part with the individual who wrote, “a community that has a strong education program has fewer problems with crime and drugs...the result is successful kids making our community strong and healthy.”

For many levy supporters and most levy detractors, a “yes” vote will be conditional: they will ONLY support the levy if they can count on the School District to cut waste, run a tight ship, prioritize with care, act with transparency, and do an impeccable job accounting for every levy dollar we spend. As one person remarked, “I only have so much money to go around. I don’t want my money spent on unnecessary things.”

So, where did this survey information come from? The Colville School District ran an online survey in November and December to get a measure of public opinion about the upcoming replacement levy. We received 160 responses and both the numeric results and the written comments (17 pages worth!) provide a wealth of information the District will use to guide our decisions. You can find complete survey results at colsd.org (just click “Levy Survey Results”). If you didn’t have a chance to take the survey, you can still call or email us with your thoughts.

It’s hard to summarize all we learned, but here’s part of what we found:

Most (85%) survey respondents said they will likely support the levy. Supporters shared opinions such as, “education is the most important thing we can do, we should fund it at the highest possible level,” and “our kids deserve and should be afforded all opportunities to learn.” Some non‐ supporters cited concerns about trust, cost, and accountability, offering comments such as, “gain my trust and get my vote.”

Most (87%) considered a 4‐year levy a better choice than a shorter option, both because running a levy is expensive and because a 4‐year levy allows the district to plan ahead. As one person said, “a four year levy is the only option that makes sense.”

Most (58%) were more likely to support the levy because of levy equalization
funds; these equalization funds are about $1 million in state lottery revenue that our School District will receive ONLY if we pass a levy. One person commented, “having more funding attached to a passed levy is a tremendous incentive,” while another noted, “it would be foolish to leave these dollars on the table.”

Most (86%) supported using levy funds to purchase technology and learning materials so students can meet new state standards, adding “it is vital we stay up on our technology!” and “we need to keep our students up to date with the rest of the world.” Many expressed their disappointment that our state does not meet its constitutional mandate to amply fund public education, adding comments like, “the state of Washington needs to step up and fully fund education.”

Most (84%) also supported using levy funds for character education/anti‐ bullying programs and enhanced school safety, with several respondents commenting that bullying is still not taken seriously enough. However, others questioned if character education programs have been proven effective (especially at the high school level) and opinions ranged widely regarding which safety improvements, if any, are really necessary.

We asked our survey takers for help prioritizing levy spending. Most people ranked all levy expense categories as high or medium priority, adding comments like, “they are all important, so use wisely what you already have” and “if we want an outstanding school district all programs are important.” However, a few priorities did stand out:

Math, science, and language arts textbooks and learning materials received the highest support, with 97% of survey respondents rating this as a high or medium priority.

Technology and building maintenance were tied for second, with 95% rating these as high or medium priorities.

The two lowest ranked categories were athletics and the Print Center, which were rated as a high or medium priority by 67% and 78% of respondents, respectively. Some suggested we “cut back on sports,” reduce the range of athletic offerings, or institute “pay to play.”

All other categories were ranked as high or medium priority by between 92% and 82% of respondents. From highest to lowest rank they were: classroom supplies, high school band, security measures, enrichment (like drama, Rocket Club, and Science Olympiad), food service, K‐6 music, and character education/anti‐bullying programs. Within these categories, many commented on the importance of music, quality food, and enrichment for students of all ages.

We asked our survey takers to choose between three levy options: $3.0 million, $2.8 million, and $2.4 million. 49% of respondents favored the top option, 27% favored the middle option, and 24% favored the lowest option. A few would have preferred an even lower choice or no levy at all, but others commented, “let’s get the kids and teachers what they need,” and “go for the top selection – for less that sixty dollars a year we gain a lot more.”

The actual levy package that will appear on the ballot is $2.69 million, which falls between the two lower options on the survey. This number was adopted by the School Board based on the recommendation of the LEAD Team, a citizen’s advisory committee that evaluated all levy requests in the district, weighed in on levy priorities, and recommended a total dollar amount for the levy package. If the levy passes, The LEAD Team has also agreed to participate in a detailed annual audit of levy expenditures.

So, in a nutshell, that’s what we learned. Thanks to all of you who provided input. We appreciate your observations and your suggestions. We appreciate your specific criticisms of buildings, programs, policies, and personnel. We appreciate your concerns and your questions, your praise and your thanks. If the levy passes, you have our word that the District will be responsible stewards of every dollar we receive and every child in our care. We will not break your trust or ever forget what one respondent observed, “the students in school now are our future.” Yes, they are.

pdfSurvey Results