Special Elections: Where's your money going?

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- KEPR is always tracking your tax dollars. And with tax issues on the ballot right now, we wanted to look at what will cost you money based on your vote.

Gregg Dillingham decided to turn down the school levy for Richland School District.

"I decided to vote no. It was hard, but the fact of the matter is, I only got so many dollars in my pocket."

Gregg doesn't want to renew the money spent on a levy for the Richland School District. One reason why, Gregg is sending his kids to private school.

"I guess it would violate my conscience to be doing both."

But Gregg knows he will be probably be outvoted. The Benton County Election's office told KEPR renewal levies usually pass 'very convincingly,' at close to 70%.

"I'll probably wind up having to do it anyway because the fact of the matter is most people put their kids in public school."

Levies can't go towards building schools or adding space. That's what a bond is for. Levies go for learning, like textbooks, art supplies and even athletics.

"I just think it's a good thing, I think schools need it," said another Richland voter.

"Richland schools like so many other school districts in the state relies on local voters to support the schools - so if we didn't have local levy money, it would be a significant hit to the district," said Richland School District Communications Director, Steve Aagaard.

Local schools say levy money makes up about 20% of their budget. This is an increase of about 5% from just a few years ago.

"The state does not fully-fund basic education.," said Aagaard.

The state Supreme Court has agreed with that. Which is why voters end up making up some of the difference. To better understand, if your home is worth about $200,000, this is what you pay for a school levy now:

- $650 a year for Richland.
- $690 for Kennewick.
- a little over $900 in Pasco.

Renewing the levies will keep these rates the same, or even a hair less.

"I don't like the taxes, but I don't think it's the schools' fault so I guess I'll vote other ways on state things but this one is for the schools," said Richland voter.

Ballots must be postmarked a week from tomorrow.