Edmonds levy would buy schools laptops

LYNNWOOD — Laptops, carpet and mobile computer labs in south Snohomish County schools are on the line in the May 20 election.

Voters in the Edmonds School District will decide the fate of a technology and capital facilities levy that would replace a levy that expires this year.

The proposed $31.5 million levy is expected to cost residents 28 cents per $1,000 of their property’s assessed value. The owner of a $400,000 home would pay $112 each year.

The expiring $44 million levy cost voters 52 cents per $1,000 of the assessed value of their property.

The new levy would help replace outdated computers and buy laptops for classroom use, said Cynthia Nelson, director of technology for the Edmonds School District. The state usually doesn’t pay for computers, so most districts buy their computers with levies or grants, she said.

Every school in the district has at least one mobile cart of laptop computers that is wheeled into classrooms so students can use computers in their room instead of having to work in a computer lab. Additionally, around 30 percent of the classrooms in the district have a set of seven laptops for classroom use.

Most of the computers were bought in 2004, with funds from the previous technology levy. Nelson said many are having issues and need to be replaced.

“We’ve done a lot of work to pretty much bring the Edmonds School District into the 21st century — and renewing this levy will allow us to continue that good work at an even lower tax rate than we’re currently running,” she said. “It is pretty amazing if you talk to a lot of teachers, they’re not real sure how they could go back to the old way of doing things.”

The levy would also pay for security system improvements, roofing upgrades and changes to make schools more energy efficient.

There is no organized opposition to the levy, but a few people have criticized it online and in letters to newspapers.

Although he thinks technology is important, Edmonds resident Mark Zandberg plans to vote against the levy because he doesn’t like the district’s management style.

“I think the levy is a fantastic thing,” said Zandberg, a former planning and property management specialist for the district. “This community needs that levy to pass. However, the manner in which the district manages those funds, I can’t tolerate at all. I’d rather take a hit in the short term.”

Tracy Greene disagrees.

A mother of three, she volunteers at Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood and says the need for the levy is obvious to anyone who spends time in the classroom.

The district is a good steward of resources, said Greene, president of Citizens for Schools, a group that advocates for school levy and bond issues in Edmonds. “The money that goes into the district is spent well. It’s spent wisely and it’s spent to better the education of children.”

The Snohomish County Auditor’s Office sent out 76,421 ballots in the vote-by-mail election. So far, 6,048 have been returned.

All ballots must be postmarked by May 20.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or kmanry@heraldnet.com.

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