RIVERSIDE, Wash – $1,083.25. That's how much Leonard Terzenbach is paying to single-handedly fund a recount of the very controversial Riverside School Levy.
Of the thousands of votes cast on election day, the ‘yes' and ‘no' ballots were surprisingly exactly tied at 2,135 a piece. Then, a procedural re-count finished late last week showed the levy passing by a mere 11 votes.
While supporters of the levy had three days to celebrate, Terzenbach is saying not so fast.
"The problem with the levies is there's never anyone who fights against it. It's never organized whatsoever, and it never probably will be," he told KHQ. "So I thought I needed to do something."
The Riverside community member has several reasons for opposing the levy. One of the biggest, he says, is the percentage of the school's budget used for salaries.
Using numbers taken from the school district's website, the total operating budget is roughly $17.68 million dollars, and it's expenses for employee benefits and salaries totals $13.13 million. That represents 74%.
The district says if the levy fails, it will mean $3 million in cuts to programs like music and AP courses, as well as staff.
But Terzenbach says, if cuts must be made, the place to start is at the top.
"The [Riverside] school superintendent makes $149,000, and they only have 1,650 students," he said in comparison. "Nine Mile, that superintendent only makes about $118,000."
Terzenbach is also upset that this is Riverside's second attempt to pass a levy in sixty days. Two levies were on the February ballot, and failed. Then in April, the district put forth a scaled-back single levy on the ballot, asking for $3.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value each year for three years, designed to replace an expiring tax.
"They already lost once, and my beef is, sixty days later they can come back and do it again. And I don't think they should be able to do that," he explained.
Terzenbach told KHQ there is no further revision of the levy that would gain his support:
"No," he said. "I would vote against any levy for the Riverside School District."
It's a hot-button topic in the small community, that's now pitting neighbor against neighbor.
Terzenbach says he had 30 'No' signs leading up to the election, and they were all torn down. His friend, he says, was almost driven off the road for displaying them.
"I think it's sad," he said. "If I don't want to vote for something and I say no, I don't think someone should run me off the road for it."
Terzenbach says he wants people to examine the issue and the numbers for themselves, and is confident the levy will fail upon re-count.
However, there are also a large number of people who are confident the ‘yes' votes will prevail once again.
The recount is scheduled to take place next week.