EVERETT — It was another tough election night for public schools in Snohomish County.
As Granite Falls and Sultan school districts cheered early success of vital funding measures on Tuesday, three other districts saw their voters turning down requests for money to fund education programs and capital improvements.
Voters in the Marysville School District, for the second time this year, opposed property tax levies that would pay for classroom staff, special education services, athletic programs, computers and facility improvements not covered by state dollars. As a result, the school board will soon be considering layoffs and program cuts to offset millions of dollars that will be lost starting next year.
In Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano, proposed levies for capital projects and technology needs were losing.
And in Mill Creek, residents will be getting a new provider of fire protection services. Voters approved a measure to join South County Fire when the city’s current emergency services contract with a different provider, Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue, expires at the end of the year.
Here is how measures fared in Tuesday’s ballot count.
The next update of results will be posted Wednesday afternoon.
Granite Falls School District
A four-year operations levy was passing by 10 votes, 50.2% to 49.8%, while a capital projects levy was ahead 51.6% to 48.4%. Voters turned down both levies in February.
Granite Falls officials say the district relies more heavily on local levies compared to others because it receives a smaller allocation of school funding from the state.
The operations levy was to raise $5 million in 2023 and $20 million overall, with a tax rate set at $1.84 per $1,000 of assessed value in each of the four years. The technology levy would raise $3 million from an annual tax of 27 cents. The combined rate of $2.11 is the same that property owners now pay.
Both were proposed to replace existing levies that expire at the end of the year.
Lakewood School District
Voters were rejecting a four-year, $3.8 million capital improvement and technology levy, 58% to 42%.
The proposal called for spending half the dollars on technology-related needs and half on deferred maintenance.
As envisioned, the levy would pay for 2,000 computers for students and 200 for staff over the next four years. It also would cover repairs to deal with the flooding of locker rooms at Dick Cardinal Stadium at Lakewood High School.
The money would come from a tax of 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which is nine cents higher than the current levy that expires at the end of the year.
The expiring levy, approved in August 2020, only generated money for technology purchases and improvements, which were critically important as schools moved to remote learning amid the pandemic.
Marysville School District
A pair of four-year levies to pay for educational programs and technology needs were failing, again.
The education operations levy was failing 57.8% to 42.3% Tuesday, while a capital levy was behind 55.6% to 44.4%.
In February, less than 45% of those who returned their ballots supported renewing the two levies. They both expire at the end of the year.
Interim Superintendent Chris Pearson warned that about $16 million in budget cuts were coming if the levies failed. And as many as 29 certificated staff could be out of a job without levy dollars.
Around 18% of the district’s total budget comes from the educational programs levy. The district warned that if the levies did not pass, reduction-in-force notifications would go out by mid-May, and the district would begin a hiring freeze and notify the state activities association about the potential cancellation of sports.
The replacement education levy was proposed to allow the district to collect $22.95 million in 2023; $23.64 million in 2024; $24.35 million in 2025; and $25.08 million in 2026. Those dollars would come from a property tax of $1.97 per $1,000 of assessed value, over 20 cents less than the rate proposed to voters on the February ballot.
The technology levy would allow the district to collect taxes totaling $12.55 million from 2023 to 2026.
Stanwood-Camano School District
A four-year $10.4 million capital improvement levy was failing, 53.1% to 46.9%. This same measure failed in the February special election, when it garnered only 48.4% support.
The money was proposed to come from a property tax of 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, two cents higher than the current levy, which expires at the end of the year.
After the setback in February, district officials increased outreach in the community and put out more details on the reasons for the levy and how the money would be used. As proposed, half the money would be spent on long-term facility needs and half on technology needs related to student learning.
Sultan School District
The second time seemed to be the charm as voters were passing multi-year tax measures to provide money for education programs, technology purchases and capital improvements.
An education operations levy led 52.7% to 47.3% Tuesday, while a capital levy was ahead by a margin of 52% to 48%. Both were proposed to run four years and replace ones expiring at the end of this year.
In February, voters turned both down.
District leaders returned with the same education levy, which would bring in $18.3 million over four years for sports, band, special education, school nurses and other services not funded by the state. Up to 34 jobs could be cut if it fails, district leaders said.
The School Board did reduce the size of the capital levy. However, inclusion of a Sky Valley Transportation Cooperative proposal to build a new facility to service the district buses would cause property owners to pay slightly more than they currently do, according to district figures.
City of Mill Creek
Voters overwhelmingly supported joining South County Fire, 76.4% to 23.6%.
City leaders have said annexation is the cheapest option. Renewing the current contract with neighboring Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue would involve a substantial cost increase, according to Mill Creek officials.
South County Fire currently serves a 50-square-mile area that includes Lynnwood, Edmonds, Brier and Mountlake Terrace. Its firefighters already respond to some calls for service in Mill Creek under a mutual aid agreement.
South County Fire is funded by two property tax levies — one for emergency medical services and one for fire services — plus a “fire benefit charge,” a fee based on the size and use of a structure, calculated to consider the resources that would be needed to fight a fire there. In 2022, all those costs would have amounted to about $880 for a 2,000-square-foot home valued at $602,000, the average in Mill Creek, according to a fact sheet from the city.
Under the annexation proposal, the city would also stopcollecting $4.3 million in taxes for the current fire contract by reducing the general property tax levy and removing the EMS levy, the fact sheet says.
“The net result is that the average homeowner would pay an additional $379.26 a year ($31.61 a month) for emergency services if annexation were in place in 2022,” the fact sheet says.
City officials warned that if voters didn’t approve the annexation, Mill Creek would have to cut fire services “significantly” or find new revenue.
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