Darrington schools to re-ask voters to approve levy

The money is aimed more at enrichment and less at teacher pay, the superintendent said.

DARRINGTON — Voters here re being asked to reconsider a levy that would support day-to-day operations in the school district of 400 students.

The proposal is for less than half the rate the district requested in the Feb. 13 election, when the measure failed by 4 percentage points. It was the only school operations, or enrichment, levy in Snohomish County to fall short, though others came close.

The Darrington School Board approved a resolution to go back to voters in the April 24 election. Those ballots were set to arrive in mailboxes last week.

This measure asks for $1.50 per $1,000 assessed property value. The levy proposed in February would have been $3.48 per $1,000 in 2019.

The rate for the earlier request was set when the district knew less about how state school funding changes would play out, Superintendent Buck Marsh said. New legislation, meant to address a mandate to fully fund basic education, increased state taxes for schools this year while capping local levies starting next year.

“We did run that other rate,” Marsh said. “When we had to make that decision in December, there was a lot more uncertainty … The state’s changed the architecture of how schools are funded pretty dramatically.”

If approved, the Darrington levy is expected to bring in $520,596 per year. The money would go into the district’s general fund for operating expenses not covered by the state, according to the ballot measure.

The levy dollars would go toward sports and physical education; the lease of the Darrington Community Center as the school’s gymnasium; music, art and language programs; field trips; some maintenance and supplies; staff training; and some salaries. That can include teacher pay, Marsh said, though not to the degree that local levies have been used for salaries in the past.

“The state is moving away from levies to pay for teacher pay, and moving toward the levies to pay for enrichment, the things they were really intended for,” he said.

After the last levy failed, the district concluded that it hadn’t reached out enough to voters, Marsh said.

He’s been meeting with community groups and speaking at info sessions about the measure. He emphasizes that the new levy is meant to replace an existing one that expires, and that the combined state and local tax rate for schools is expected to decrease after this year’s hike. Though the state rate is expected to remain higher than it has been in the past, the local levy would decrease from $3.71 per $1,000 this year to $1.50 per $1,000 in 2019.

A ballot drop box van is scheduled to be parked at the Darrington IGA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 23.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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