A year ago this month, Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small addressed a disappointed crowd after a capital facilities initiative was defeated in a special election by a 54-percent margin.
On Tuesday, following another special election, Small and a more exuberant gathering celebrated a win at the ballot – a 58-percent victory that will provide funds for a $27.1 million programs and operations replacement levy from 2013 to 2015.
“The message was clear from everyone in this district about the importance of this levy,” said Small. “I think it says a lot about our community.”
A total of 13 school districts in Spokane County ran replacement levies on the Feb. 14 ballot. A simple majority – or any margin above 50 percent – is required for passage.
CVSD was one of four greater Spokane Valley school districts that appeared to have earned levy approval after early returns on Tuesday night. West Valley checked in with 55.56 of the electorate on its replacement levy while garnering 54.19 percent on a replacement technology levy. Both initiatives would cover three years.
“We’ve always had a very supportive community,” said West Valley Superintendent Polly Crowley. “We are very thankful that enough people sought out information on this levy and how critical it is to education.”
Both Freeman and East Valley ballot counts were on the narrower side. The EVSD levy was leading by 51.97 percent with only 231 votes (3,040 to 2,809) propelling it into simple majority territory. In Freeman, the margin was 53.01 percent in favor of the levy with the overall vote count standing at 801 to 710.
The Freeman levy would set the tax rate at $2.93 per $1,000.
Freeman Superintendent Randy Russell acknowledged Wednesday that there were still around 100 to 200 more ballots to be counted in his district. Countywide, approximately 15,000 ballots remained to be tabulated as of Tuesday night, according to the Spokane County Elections Office.
“I’m very happy and appreciative of the support from our community,” Russell said. “It takes an effort from everyone.”
The East Valley levy comprises 28 percent of the district’s budget and would set the tax rate at $4.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value. As in other districts, levy funds cover a wide range of areas, including teacher salaries, transportation, textbooks, utilities, sports, music, counseling, special education and more.
On Wednesday, EVSD officials estimated that approximately 700 votes had yet to be included in the final election numbers, meaning around 70 percent of those ballots would need to be no votes in order to change the result.
“It’s looking pretty good right now,” East Valley Superintendent John Glenewinkel said on Wednesday. “I’m really humbled by the support from our voters, but I also recognize that we still have a lot of work to do.”
In Freeman, the levy accounts for 17 percent, or $1.4 million of the district’s $8.7 million annual budget. Freeman is the only district among the four Spokane Valley districts that included state levy equalization funds – similar to a matching grant from Olympia – in its final levy totals. Central Valley and East Valley both assumed no state money will be available and will roll back the levy rate based on the receipt of any equalization funds. West Valley included 50 percent of state proceeds from previous years in its levy amount.
Central Valley’s tax rate will be set at $4.19 per $1,000 over the three-year tenure of the replacement levy which represents 22 percent – or $24 million – of the districts’ annual budget.
An oppositional movement spent $60,000 in Spokane County on anti-levy messages in the form of billboards and yard signs. Small applauded volunteers who donated time to a citizens campaign that let voters know where levy dollars go.
“We knew it was going to be tough fight,” he said. “I think more than any other election, there was an effort to get information out about the impact of a failed levy.”