Liberty Elementary School (top) and Cascade Elementary School. (Marysville School District)

Liberty Elementary School (top) and Cascade Elementary School. (Marysville School District)

$16M in cuts loom if Marysville school funding measures fail

Two levies saw support of less than 45% of voters in February. Now, with proposed taxes decreased, the district is asking again.

MARYSVILLE — Beige water pours out of a tap at Liberty Elementary school in a parent’s video.

The school, built in 1951, needs significant maintenance and upkeep to keep students in class, said Marysville School District Interim Superintendent Chris Pearson.

“If there’s no funding source, I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do,” Pearson said.

As many as 29 certificated staff could also be out of a job without levy dollars.

“We’d be looking at staffing reductions in all areas, including the district office, schools, support staff, everything,” Pearson said.

Marysville School District asked voters to renew its educational programs and operations levy, as well as a separate technology and capital projects levy, in February. The levy rates were set at a level that would have maintained “the status quo,” Pearson said.

But the levies, each set to replace one expiring at the end of the year, failed badly. Each only garnered the support of less than 45% of voters.

State law allows districts to try twice in a calendar year to pass levies. Marysville chose to go back to voters for the special election April 26.

One of Marysville residents’ biggest concerns was the tax rate, Pearson said.

So the school board slimmed the requests for the April election — lowering the tax rate for the proposed four-year educational programs levy from $2.20 to $1.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. The proposed technology and capital projects levy went from 60 to 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The replacement education levy would allow the district to collect $22,950,000 in 2023; $23,640,000 in 2024; $24,350,000 in 2025; and $25,080,000 in 2026. The technology levy would allow the district to collect taxes totaling $12,550,000 from 2023 to 2026.

The district depends on local dollars — through the educational programs and operations levy — to offer extracurriculars like band, theater and sports. It also helps pay teacher, counselor, librarian and nurse salaries, and it funds early learning programs. The technology and capital projects pays for students’ electronics and the upkeep of school buildings like the district’s two oldest — Liberty and Cascade elementaries.

The reduced levy rates mean some projects to fix failing and outdated infrastructure are on hold, and the district will have to make another roughly $1.5 million in budget cuts, Pearson said.

But about $16 million in budget cuts loom if the two Marysville School District levies fail again.

The educational programs levy accounts for around 18% of the district’s total budget.

Over 80% of the district’s budget is salaries and benefits. The district could cut about $6 million in staffing funds, according to a February presentation.

The district would also consider cutting $3.2 million from extracurricular activity funding, $1.8 million from instructional resources, $400,000 from early learning and $150,000 from transportation.

With those cuts, students could see their classes grow from around 25 to over 30. They could have longer treks to the bus stop. And students could lose their creative outlets or never get to participate in after-school programs they may have already signed up for.

Needed building maintenance and technology updates would also be delayed or reduced for the upcoming school year, Pearson said. Technology is an essential part of the classroom, Pearson said, but it’s not yet funded by general education dollars from the state.

If the levies fail, reduction-in-force notifications would go out by mid May. The district would begin a hiring freeze and notify the state activities association about the potential cancellation of sports.

Ray Sheldon Jr., a Tulalip Tribes elder and grandfather of Marysville students, said failing to pass the levies would mean “our kids are set up for failure.”

“It’s going to be a big loss if we don’t pass that,” Sheldon said. “Parents will probably think about leaving and going to Lake Stevens or Everett, where they have no problem passing anything.”

Ballots must be postmarked no later than April 26. They do not require a stamp. The county also has 15 designated drop boxes open for the special election. They will be open 24/7 and until 8 p.m. on April 26.

Voters who did not receive a ballot by April 16 should contact the elections office at 425-388-3444 or elections@snoco.org.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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