Vashon's school levy sails to an easy victory

Vashon Island School District's four-year operating levy appears to be passing easily, according to partial returns from the Feb. 9 mail-in election.

With 40 percent of the voters casting ballots, 69 percent approved the measure, while 31 percent rejected it. The levy, which covers about 20 percent of the school district's operating costs, would bring in between $3.6 million and $4 million a year over the next four years.

The levy's apparent passage came as good news to Vashon school officials, who expect to face another rough round of budget cuts this year due to declining state support.

"It's fantastic," said Laura Wishik, who chairs the board. "It confirms that people on Vashon think education is so important that they're willing to support it, even in a hard time."

Noting that Vashon's voter turnout appeared to be among the highest in the county, she added, "I think it's because people here really get it — that this money is essential to making our schools work."

The levy was one of many in the region that appeared to be sailing to victory Wednesday morning. According to unofficial results posted on the King County Elections Office Web site, 13 of the 14 levies put before voters by a school district in the county were passing, most by wide margins. Only Federal Way's levy was failing — by about 1/2 a percentage point.

Some school bond measures, however, which require a 60 percent supermajority to pass, appeared headed to defeat in the few districts that put forward such initiatives. Lake Washington School District's $234 million bond, for instance, was trailing in the polls, with 53.5 percent voter approval.

Vashon's school board last year had considered placing a bond measure to repair the district's aging high school on this Feb. 9 ballot. It's now slated to go before voters in November.

Vashon's levy, assuming it passes, will not represent new taxes, supporters say, as property owners are currently covering a levy voters approved four years ago. The current tax rate of $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed value would be applied in 2011; by 2014, at the end of the levy, that tax rate would climb to $1.49.

A homeowner of a $500,000 house would pay between $700 and $745 a year, according to the school district.

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