Lakewood to run just-defeated school levies again in April

LAKEWOOD – The school board voted Feb. 26 to re-run the levies April 28 that were just defeated in the Feb. 11 election.

School officials said the levies are not new or additional taxes – they are a renewal of current levy taxes to maintain existing programs and facilities.

Both measures were defeated soundly in the recent election. The Replacement Levy for Educational Programs and Operations lost 1,795 to 1,468, or 55% to 45%. The Replacement Levy for Technology and Capital Improvements was a little closer, 1,743 to 1,519, or 53.4% to 46.6%. Both take a simple majority to pass.

Board members said they heard people’s concerns about overall increased property taxes.

“As a school board member I understand the complexities involved in asking our community that already does so much for our schools and students to continue the course with these two levies. It is not an easy choice to reconcile…I get that,” board vice president Sandy Gotts said.

Funds from the Programs and Operations levy represent 13.7% of the school district’s budget. Programs and staffing funded by that levy include health and nursing services, safety and security, support staff for special needs students, social and emotional supports for students, ongoing facility and transportation maintenance, athletics, band, clubs and drama.

Director Leaha Boser said she takes her oath of office seriously.

“Part of that oath is striving to do what’s best for our students, schools and community,” she said.

School officials said the levy rates are actually expected to decrease from $2.18 per $1,000 valuation this year to $2.12 in 2024, thanks to increase property valuations.

The Technology and Capital Improvements levy pays for replacements of roofs, heating and ventilation, fire safety equipment, deteriorating sidewalks and curbs, replacement of staff and student computer equipment, network expansion and security upgrades, fencing and school security systems.

The proposed rates for that levy is projected to remain flat over the four years at 27 cents per $1,000 valuation.

Board president Jahna Smith said: “We have listened to the entire community — our yes voters, our no voters and our students. We have also listened to what our community has said are important priorities in schools over the course of the last several years. All of these voices and interests have factored into our decision.”