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ESD passes replacement levy to maintain educational operations

By Nolan DeGarlais, News Editor

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Preliminary election results from the Snohomish County special election which took place on Tuesday, Feb. 13 show the Edmonds School District (ESD) Replacement School Programs and Operations Levy passing with 54.33 percent voter approval as of Feb. 19. School district levies require over 50 percent voter approval to go into effect, meaning the levy will pass if over 50 percent support is maintained after results are certified by Snohomish County Elections later this month after all votes have been properly counted.

The replacement levy is meant to fund school programs that cannot be financed by the state. This levy, which will go into effect in January 2019, is not an additional levy and will only serve to replace the current local levy approved in 2014 which will expire at the end of 2018. When the replacement levy is implemented, the levy rate will be set as $1.50 per thousand of assessed property value.

Preliminary results released on election night showed the levy receiving 52.46 percent voter approval, so the levy has seen increased support as more votes have been counted. Historically, the ballots which are counted later and were mailed in closer to election night tend to be more supportive of these measures, so support is expected to continue to increase as more votes are counted.

ESD Superintendent Kristine McDuffy expressed her gratitude to the community of ESD schools after preliminary results on election night showed the replacement levy garnering enough support to pass.

“These are challenging times with many questions still remaining about the funding of public education,” McDuffy said. “Our community’s belief in and on-going support of their public schools is outstanding. We will continue to demonstrate that we are excellent stewards of our community’s resources.”

When the ESD presented the measure to voters four years ago, it received significantly more support, with comparable preliminary results showing 62.88 percent voter support for the replacement levy in the 2014 February Snohomish County special election. For this years’ election, approximately 135,000 people in Snohomish County voted, and voter turnout was at 30.58 percent, which is lower than the 32.7 percent voter turnout in the November 2017 Snohomish County general election.

Despite the lower level of support for the replacement levy in this election, McDuffy remained optimistic due to the community’s continued support of the ESD and its student programs.

“While the measure still needs to be certified by Snohomish County Elections, we are thankful that we can move forward to continue the great work underway while planning for a stronger tomorrow,” McDuffy said. “We are committed to providing programs and services that ensures each and every student a quality education.”

In the lead up to the election, the ESD campaigned to ensure all community members knew about the replacement levy supporting school district programs on the ballot and why they should vote in favor of it. All schools in the ESD sent home a detailed newsletter with students intended for their guardians which explained the parameters of the levy and why the district considered the additional funds necessary.

Also, many volunteered their time to work at phone banks to reach out to voters about the replacement levy. At the School Board meeting on election night, School Board President Diana White offered her thanks to volunteers who helped ensure the replacement levy gained enough support to be approved by the voters, while also acknowledging this as an inopportune time to ask voters to fund the school district.

Once the replacement levy goes into effect, it will go toward funding additional teachers in an attempt to decrease class sizes, safety and security personnel for each school, paraeducators and other supporting staff. In addition to these staff increases, the levy will also fund updated textbooks and other instructional materials, transportation for students, student clubs and activities, services for special needs students, technology support and further staff training to improve educational quality.

ESD School Board member Gary Noble clarified the purpose of the replacement levy, asserting it was not a way for the ESD to gain further revenue.

“This measure is not additional funding, it is what we need in order to continue to operate each day,” Noble said. “It directly supports the learning and teaching in each classroom across our District in Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway and unincorporated portions of south Snohomish County.”

The ESD Board of Directors placed the measure for the replacement levy on the ballot with Resolution 17-62, which authorized the district to replace the expiring levy for support of the District General Fund approved after the 2014 Snohomish County special election. The replacement levy will be authorized from 2019 to 2022 and is expected to bring in $62.75 million each year.

“The locally-funded levy is our second largest revenue source and remains critical to our success in supporting all students learning,” McDuffy said.

Tax rates will decrease, not increase, from their current levels when the new replacement levy goes into effect. The 2018 replacement levy rate is $1.50 per thousand of assessed property value, which is an 85 cent decrease from the current $2.35 per thousand of assessed property value levy approved in 2014.

The decrease is due to a July 2017 decision from the state legislature which increases school funding throughout the state. This further state funding comes from an increase in statewide property taxes, which limits the amount school districts can raise from local property tax levies. Thus, the ESD was required to lower its property tax levy to meet the new state standards, which led to the creation of the replacement levy voted on during the Feb. 13 special election.

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About the Writer
Nolan DeGarlais, News Editor

Nolan DeGarlais is in his sophomore year and it is his second year as a member of the Hawkeye. His current position is News Editor, which primarily involves the writing and editing of news stories for the Hawkeye. This year, Nolan hopes to write several stories for the Hawkeye and cover many different school events and developments that have the potential to impact the school. In his free time, Nolan enjoys reading and going hiking.

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ESD passes replacement levy to maintain educational operations