Lakewood Middle School (Lakewood School District)

Lakewood Middle School (Lakewood School District)

Lakewood School District will ask voters to pass two levies

Two levies on February’s ballot would help pay for salaries, special education, security and more.

LAKEWOOD — Two measures in February’s special election will ask Lakewood residents to pick up school district costs where state money falls short.

The Lakewood School Board voted last week to run two levies on the ballot that would take effect as previously passed ones expire.

One levy covers education and program costs that aren’t met by state money. The revenue would go to salaries, special education resources, athletics, mental health and emotional support, clubs, a school resource officer and other programming and staff.

The other levy pays for upgrades to district computers, networks, security cameras and fencing.

Combined, they’d give the school district nearly $32 million over four years, according to district documents.

Superintendent Scott Peacock said the tax dollars would reasonably close the funding gap between state money and what it costs to run the district.

Residents would pay less for the levies than they did in 2018, Peacock said.

“Even though taxes are increasing in Lakewood, they’re still going to have the second-lowest collection rates they’ve had in 10 years,” he said.

A projected increase in land value allows the revenue from the tax to increase over time, despite lowering the rate.

The tax rate for the school operations levy decreases each year, from $2.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2021 to $2.12 in 2024.

The technology levy sits at $0.27 per $1,000 of assessed value each of the four years.

The amount a school district can tax its residents has been up for debate in recent years.

In one of its 2016 levies, which passed with 54% support, the district asked voters for $3.18 per $1,000 of assessed value.

State lawmakers, in response to the McCleary decision, capped levies at $1.50 per $1,000 as part of efforts to create equitable education funding across the state.

In August, the Legislature voted to raise the levy lid for districts to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $2,500 per student, whichever costs taxpayers less.

Changing levy lids are “kind of like adjusting a thermostat,” Peacock said.

“The Legislature is finding this was a little too hot and that was too cold,” he said. “Now, it’s a little bit closer to just right.

Peacock, who’s in his first year as superintendent, said he’s still learning the priorities of the school district he serves.

Expanding emotional and mental health resources for students is an early objective of his, he said.

“That is another piece that we step up and provide in our district for all our schools” he said. “Beyond the levy, we also have partnerships with organizations in the community like Compass Health, developing support for kids that are in our crisis.”

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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