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Snohomish county school levies mostly passing

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By Eric Stevick
Herald writer
Schools were big winners at the ballot box Tuesday with six Snohomish County districts passing levies that provide about one-fifth of their operating budgets.
However, if Washington's voted hadn't decided in November to lower the threshold for passing a levy from 60 percent to a simple majority, there would be many nervous school leaders today.
All maintenance and operation levies were passing by comfortable margins Tuesday night, but most were below the supermajority threshold that was required in the past.
While voters were agreeing to replace operations levies, a $139 million bond measure in the Mukilteo School District was trailing Tuesday night. Bond measures -- which fund building new schools, renovating old ones and buying land for future construction -- still require a 60 percent supermajority. The measure had a 55 percent "yes" vote after Tuesday's tally.
Supporters across the county said they were nervous about how their measures would fare for two reasons: It was their first attempt with an all-mail ballot and the school measures shared the ballot with the presidential primary. School leaders feared that many voters wouldn't even turn in their ballots because they didn't want to declare a political party, which was a requirement to vote in the presidential races.
Here's a look at how each measure was faring Tuesday night:
A four-year levy request is passing. It will pay for activities such as music, drama and clubs, and 90 percent of sports costs, 60 percent of technology improvements and 30 percent of transportation services. It also contributes to curriculum and textbook costs and teacher training. Roughly half the money goes into staffing.
John Burkholder, chairman of the pro-levy committee in the Arlington district, said he was worried while waiting for results because of the presidential primary and the all-mail ballots. "We were never sure about this round," he said.
Both Darrington school measures were passing by comfortable margins.
The four-year maintenance and operations levy will generate $1.02 million in 2009 and increase to $1.27 million in 2012.
A two-year transportation levy will raise $110,000 a year for each of the next two years to buy two new buses. Four of the district's buses are more than 20 years old.
Granite Falls
Two of three measures were passing but a third that would have built a stadium at the new Granite Falls High School was failing.
A four-year maintenance and operation levy and a technology levy were ahead.
The third measure would have been a four-year capital improvement levy that would have raised $4 million for stadium.
Kathy Grant, a school district spokeswoman, said she is thankful the two measures passed but doesn't know if the district will put the third proposition back on the ballot.
"The program and operation levy and the tech levy, that's our life line and it's a big relief," she said. "We will sit tight and keep our eye on the other one" for the stadium improvements.
The new campus already has synthetic turf and a track, but no seating. The measure would have provided a stadium with covered seating for 2,000 people for the home team and visitors seating for 500.
The district's four-year maintenance and operation levy and a technology levy were passing.
"If it weren't for (new simple majority law) we would be biting our fingernails and waiting three and four more days that would be full of anxiety," said Larry Francois, the district's superintendent.
Voters in Monroe were favoring both school measures.
Proposition 1 is a request to renew a four-year maintenance and operation levy.
Proposition 2 is a two-year capital projects levy that would raise $4.7 million to replace aging roofs and heating systems, upgrade technology and resurface the high school track, which opened in 1999.
"We're very pleased," said Rosemary O'Neil, a school district spokeswoman. "It is a wonderful testament to the hundreds of hours volunteers put in to pass it."
Voters in the Mukilteo School District considered a pair of school measures that would add new classrooms and remodel old ones.
A $139.2 million bond measure was failing to get the 60 percent supermajority required for bond measures. It would build a new $28 million elementary school near Lake Stickney, spend $41 million to renovate Mukilteo and Discovery elementary schools and set aside $12.5 million to buy land for future schools among a long list of improvements.
The other proposal to renew a six-year capital projects levy was passing by a wide margin. It needed a simple majority.
The levy will provide $11.2 million over six years that would be used for projects such as replacing roofs and paving paths for wheelchairs on playgrounds. Money would also be used to improve classroom technology.
"Of course, we are disappointed they both aren't passing," said Andy Muntz, a school district spokesman. "At the same time we can be optimistic a little bit. A lot of people are telling us they didn't turn their ballots in until late."
A four-year operations levy was passing with solid majorities in both Island and Snohomish counties.
In Stanwood district, 48 percent of registered voters are from Snohomish County and 52 percent are from Camano Island in Island County.
"The voters really showed their support in renewing the levy," said Cathy Britt, a school district spokeswoman. "I think, in general, the community understood the importance of it."

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or e-mail

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