Lakewood, Darrington mull April school levy proposals

State law allows two tries to pass levies during the calendar year. They will ask voters again.

LAKEWOOD — Two of Snohomish County’s rural school districts will have a lot on the line when they ask voters in April to provide money to support classroom and campus operations.

Lakewood and Darrington voters rejected local enrichment levy propositions on the Feb. 11 ballot. Both fell well below the simple majority needed to pass.

By state law, school districts are given two chances to pass levies in a calendar year. The last double levy failure in the county was 27 years ago in Snohomish.

Lakewood and Darrington are expected to make new pitches on the April 28 special election ballot. Arlington and Stanwood passed their levies last week.

Leaders in the Lakewood and Darrington districts are gathering feedback after the levy rejections. In each case, they are considering asking for less.

“I think the biggest thing we are hearing is people are very concerned about their taxes,” said Lakewood Superintendent Scott Peacock.

An increase in how much people pay in local property taxes for other government services, such as fire protection, can have a ripple effect on schools, he said.

In Lakewood, 45% of voters approved a four-year educational-programs and operations levy proposal, and 46.6% were backing a four-year capital levy.

Peacock said the school board will explore several options.

“We have not made a decision yet,” he said.

The Lakewood School Board will discuss its options Wednesday evening and is expected to make a formal decision on what to place on the ballot at a special meeting next week.

In Darrington, Superintendent Buck Marsh expects the district will propose a different package.

“We are looking at returning in April with a lower dollar amount,” he said. “Our voters have sent us a message that we need to make some cuts. Asking for the full levy capacity is more than what the people feel they are able to pay right now.”

What were once called programs and operations levies are now called enrichment levies following changes to state law on school funding. Basic education is now meant to be covered by state dollars.

School officials say the state’s definition of basic education does not include everything they consider important for their communities.

That can be a long list, including school nurses; a school resource officer; additional teachers, specialists and classroom assistants; athletics; and extracurricular programs, Peacock said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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