School levies in front of Lakewood, Darrington voters again

After setbacks in February, both districts trimmed their proposals in pursuit of success Tuesday.

EVERETT — Voters in two of Snohomish County’s rural school districts may have a sense of déjà vu Tuesday.

Lakewood and Darrington voters rejected local enrichment levy propositions on the February ballot. Those districts are trying again in Tuesday’s primary, each with leaner versions of those failed propositions.

State law allows school districts two chances to pass levies in a calendar year. The last double levy failure in the county was 27 years ago in Snohomish.

Lakewood is seeking approval of a four-year levy to generate roughly $27 million for classroom and campus operating expenses not covered by the state. This measure requires a simple majority to pass and would kick in when the district’s current enrichment levy expires at the end of this year.

If successful, the revenue would go to programs and staffing like school nurses, resource officers, playground supervisors, support staff for special needs students, athletic programs, band, clubs, drama, and facility and transportation maintenance.

The proposed tax rate is $2.11 per $1,000 of assessed property value next year, dropping to $2.04 in 2024. The prior proposition had a rate of $2.17 in the first year, falling to $2.12 in 2024.

Voters are also considering a separate two-year technology levy. The proposed rate of 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value is half of what the district sought earlier in the year.

“The board felt strongly we had to take into account the hardships in our community,” said Superintendent Scott Peacock. “With these proposals we’ll be able to maintain the programs we have and be able to meet the community where it is at.”

In Darrington, voters are considering a supplemental levy for 2021 and 2022. It would run concurrently with the district’s existing Educational Programs and Operation levy that expires in 2022.

The district is proposing a tax rate of $1.09 for every $1,000 of assessed property value which would generate an estimated $1 million in the two years. In February, school leaders sought a $1.50 rate which would have brought in around $1.65 million.

If the measure passes, proceeds will be used to fund lower class sizes, field trips, school supplies, staff professional development, facility maintenance, music and arts programs as well as athletics and other extracurricular activities.

Should the levy not pass, programs will face cuts, said Superintendent Buck Marsh. All options, including returning to the ballot next year, will also be considered.

Voters in the Everett School District are considering a $317.4 million bond measure.

If approved, it would provide money to tear down three of the district’s oldest elementaries — Madison, Jackson and Lowell — and build new campuses on the same sites.

The measure also contains money to construct new classrooms, make renovations to bolster STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs at each of the district’s three high schools, add playground equipment at eight elementaries and improve security systems at multiple schools.

Opponents say the measure is too ambitious and needed to be scaled back. They also contend the district is understating the long-term tab for property owners and not taking into account the financial impact of the most recent tax shift to boost state funding of schools.

Unlike levies, bonds require support of at least 60% to pass.

Ballots returned by mail do not require any stamp but they must be postmarked no later than Aug. 4 to count. They also can be placed in one of the county’s 29 designated drop boxes. These are open around the clock until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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