School levies passing in Lakewood and Edmonds districts

For Lakewood, success in passing a supplemental levy follows two defeats in 2020.

LAKEWOOD — Voters were approving vital financing measures in the Lakewood and Edmonds school districts Tuesday night.

In Lakewood, 52% of voters were backing a three-year supplemental property tax levy to pay for programs and services not funded by the state. If results hold, it will bring back an Educational Program and Operations levy, which lapsed after voters rejected two more-costly levy proposals in 2020.

“We are feeling good. We believe these results will hold up,” Superintendent Scott Peacock said in an email. “The approval of this levy proposition goes a long way to securing our district’s future, as we look past the dark days of the pandemic.”

Sandy Gotts, president of the school board, thanked the community for its support.

“It has been a difficult year for all school districts and Lakewood is no exception,” she said in a statement. “We appreciate this community, who put students first.”

Under Proposition 1 on Tuesday’s ballot, the tax rate would be set at $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed property value, starting in 2022, and be unchanged through the life of this levy. It would generate roughly $6.1 million in the first year of tax collections and $19.5 million in the course of three years.

Those dollars are earmarked for items for which the state provides no money, such as athletics, drama and band. And a portion would go to provide for smaller class sizes and specialized academic instruction beyond what can be achieved solely with allotments from the state.

Overall, an estimated 42 jobs would be funded with first-year collections. Among them are teachers and paraeducators, nurses and psychologists. As one example, the state provides districts with money for roughly one nurse for every 2,500 students. Lakewood deploys nurses at every school, covering the tab with non-state dollars.

Detailing how the money would be spent was a critical component of outreach efforts by levy supporters.

“It was clear from the questions, concerns and interests of our community throughout the engagement campaign that they care deeply about our schools,” Peacock said. “People want the best for our children. They want to know that the funding they provide will go toward meaningful programs.”

Board members agreed last month on a blueprint to pare $2.5 million in costs if the levy did not pass. Those savings would come through layoffs of teachers, furlough days for administrators and reductions in assistance for educational and extracurricular programs. Last year the district reduced spending by $1 million in response to the double levy failure.

Meanwhile, in Edmonds, 54.8% of voters were backing a six-year, $180 million capital levy. The money would pay for maintenance, safety and security improvements on campuses, and replacement of Spruce and Oak Heights elementary schools.

As proposed, the tax rate would start at 79 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2022. The rate is projected to decline to 68 cents by the final year.

Tuesday’s success comes a year after voters approved a four-year $96 million technology and capital levy. The bulk of those dollars are earmarked for ensuring a computer is available for each student in grades 2 through 12, and to bolster the availability of learning tools for students with special needs.

Both measures on Tuesday’s ballot require a simple majority for passage.

County election officials will complete the next tally of ballots Wednesday afternoon.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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