Of the 29 levy measures, 22 were passing, while two of the three bond measures were passing. In King County, 16 school districts asked voters to approve levy measures.
Twenty-four of the 32 levy and bond measures for King County school districts were passing Tuesday evening in February’s special-election early returns.
Of the 29 levy measures, 22 were passing, while two of the three bond measures were passing.
In King County, 16 school districts asked voters to approve levy measures that would generate more than $1 billion in revenue over four years, starting in 2019. Many of the measures on the ballot were for “enrichment” levies that would replace existing ones, which used to be called maintenance-and-operations levies.
Bellevue’s $304 million enrichment levy, which would generate the greatest amount of money among all the King County enrichment levies, was passing with 53 percent of the vote. The four-year levy, if renewed, would pay for costs associated with adding seventh-period classes, hiring additional nurses, counselors and security, and funding special-education programs. The current levy expires this year and funds about 22 percent of the district’s budget.
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Highline’s $198 million levy was passing with 58 percent of the vote. The district had said that though the Legislature’s funding plan was a step in the right direction, it still needed a local levy to make up the difference between what the state funds and what the district actually needs for its students. Those costs include hiring teachers to ensure smaller classroom sizes, adding teacher-training days and paying for athletic programs.
Tahoma’s three levy measures, Snoqualmie Valley’s two measures and Kent’s two were narrowly failing in early returns. Each measure was trailing by fewer than 1,000 votes.
Failed levy measures could hit Kent especially hard. The district ended last year with a $6.9 million budget shortfall and relies on local levies for about 20 percent of its overall budget.
This is the first election since legislators came up with a plan that they say fully funds basic education, as required by the state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision. But many districts say they still need money generated from the enrichment levies to cover basic education costs, like teacher salaries.
The Legislature put a cap on enrichment-levy rates — either $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed home value or a rate that generates $2,500 per student, whichever is lower — starting in 2019.
The election also comes just before residents statewide will receive their property-tax bills. Under the legislators’ school-funding plan, property taxes will increase. In King County, the average increase is about 17 percent this year, according to the King County Assessor’s Office. In Bellevue, for example, property taxes are increasing from last year by about 21 percent.
Officials in some school districts had said there was greater uncertainty this year about whether the levy measures would pass, in part because of the increase in property taxes.
Fife’s and Northshore’s bonds measures were passing in early returns; Lake Washington’s bond measure had 53 percent of the vote, which doesn’t meet the minimum approval. Bonds require a 60 percent approval and a minimum voter turnout of 40 percent of voters who cast ballots in the last generation election.