The mail-in ballot voters received in Everett, which is one of 13 Snohomish County school districts with levies at stake in Tuesday’s election. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The mail-in ballot voters received in Everett, which is one of 13 Snohomish County school districts with levies at stake in Tuesday’s election. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Hundreds of millions of dollars at stake on school ballots

Thirteen school districts in Snohomish County have levies on Tuesday’s ballot.

EVERETT — Ballots are due Tuesday in an election with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in school levies and bonds.

Voters in Lake Stevens also are considering a bond measure for a new library, and Darrington voters are deciding on a proposed levy lid lift for their fire district.

More than 440,000 ballots were mailed to voters in Snohomish County. By Friday morning, about 18 percent had been returned. Voter turnout is expected to be 25 or 30 percent, typical for a February election, said Garth Fell, elections and recording manager.

The first round of election results should be posted just after 8 p.m. Tuesday. Results will be updated throughout the week as more ballots are counted.

Thirteen Snohomish County school districts have levies on the ballot. They include programs and operations, technology and capital levies.

The ballot measures — most presented as replacements to expiring local school property taxes — have become complicated this year due to changes in state law.

A statewide tax increase to meet a court mandate to fully fund education went into effect in 2018. It increases this year’s taxes by hundreds of dollars for most homeowners. Under current law, local levies must decrease in 2019 to offset the state hike.

School officials say they still need local taxes, now known as enrichment levies, to pay for staff and programs they consider important but that the state doesn’t define as basic education. State lawmakers are set to consider additional changes to education funding.

Three districts also are seeking bonds to build new schools and for other construction and renovation projects. Everett is requesting $330.6 million, including $216.8 million for a new high school. Northshore’s bond measure is for $275 million, with money for a new elementary school and expansions at several campuses. The Arlington School District has put forth a $107.5 million bond that would direct $72 million toward replacing Post Middle School.

It’s not just school districts with funding on the line in this election. In Lake Stevens, a $17 million bond measure is on the ballot to build a new library. This is the second attempt. The first, in 2017, got more than 60 percent of the vote but fell short of a minimum turnout requirement. This time around, the turnout threshold already has been met, with 5,363 ballots cast and a requirement of at least 3,118.

The Darrington Fire District is seeking a lid lift that would allow it to collect up to $1.25 per $1,000 assessed property value, up from the current levy of 73 cents per $1,000. The expected increase for homeowners would be a little over $100 per year on a $200,000 home and about $155 on a $300,000 home.

More information, including sample ballots and voter guides, is available online at snohomishcountywa.gov/4009/Whats-on-the-ballot.

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

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