Voters OK Lakewood school levies

MARYSVILLE The election wont be certified until March, but Lakewood Superintendent Larry Francois said he is feeling pretty good about the numbers coming from the Snohomish County Board of Elections.
Were reasonably confident, Francois said.
Lakewood had two levies on the Feb. 19 ballot.
Proposition 1 is a maintenance and operating levy that would replace an existing levy set to expire at the end of this year.
Proposition 2 will give the district additional dollars for what officials call technology improvements at the schools.
All Washington elections are done by mail. Ballots are counted whenever they arrive at the board of elections as long as they are postmarked by the date of the election.
According to unofficial numbers released by the elections board Feb. 22, Lakewood Proposition 1 was passing with 1,779 votes in favor and 1,236 votes against, or 59 percent for to 41 percent against.
Voters also were showing support for Prop 2, if to a smaller extent. The issue was passing 1,657 to 1,349, or 55 percent to 44 percent.
The Feb. 22 figures were the latest available prior to The Globes deadline for this issue.
While he expressed pleasure with the results so far, Francois is hopeful final results show passage rates of 60 percent or better. Prior to this year, both issues would have needed a 60 percent or better showing at the polls to win approval. A ballot initiative passed by voters last year removed the 60 percent rule, allowing school levies to pass with a simple voter majority of 50 percent plus one.
Were thankful theyre passing, but it would be nice psychologically to have that higher level of support, Francois said.
Prior to the election, Francois said the district would need to look at budget cuts of between $3 million to $4 million if Proposition 1 failed. The levy it replaces supplies about 17 percent of the districts operating budget.
Overall, the district estimates the operating levy will raise about $4.4 million in 2009, $4.8 million in 2010, $5.1 million in 2011 and $5.6 million in 2012.
In terms of cost, for each $1,000 in property value, property owners should pay an additional $1.85 in 2009, $1.73 in 2010, $1.62 in 2011 and $1.54 in 2012.
The current levy is costing property owners $2.17 per $1,000 in property valuation. The district claims that puts Tina Ross is one of two co-chairs of the committee which worked for passage of both levies. According to both Francois and Ross, the technology levy would allow the district to greatly improve its educational tools.
According to the districts Web site, the technology levy will fund items such as interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, classroom audio systems as well as the infrastructure cables and so on needed to make that equipment work.
Among other aspects, the levy also contains a security component, allowing the district to install video surveillance cameras at Lakewoods junior and senior high schools and on its school buses.
Again according to district information, the levy will cost 33 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2009. The figure drops one cent each year over the four-year life of the levy. If finally approved, Proposition 2 will raise about $800,000 next year with collections increasing approximately $100,000 each year over the life of the levy.
Francois said the district wont receive any dollars from Proposition 2 until February or March of 2009. He wasnt sure whether or not officials would look at borrowing money against those future tax collections in order to launch some of the planned program improvements sooner.
There is some creative financing possible, but who knows at this point, Francois said. We dont want to incur a bunch of interest on the issue, thats not what voters were promised.

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