Early results: Lake Washington School District levies are passing, bond is failing

Early results from Tuesday’s election are in and show mixed results.

Voters in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) voted to approve two levies that would help fund capital renovations and programs in the district, but a bond measure on the ballot has not met the 60 percent approval it requires to pass.

“We’re very pleased and grateful that our levies are passing over 50 percent,” said Dr. Traci Pierce, LWSD superintendent. “And while the bond’s also passing over 50 percent, bonds need 60 percent approval to pass, so that’s disappointing to us.”

Prop. 1, which would replace educational programs and the operations levy, is passing with 53.6 percent of the vote.

This levy would replace an expiring levy and decrease the district tax rate.

It funds staff for special education, highly capable and English learner programs as well as substitute teachers, nurses and transportation staff.

It would also fund a new teacher support program, additional learning days for staff and workshops.

Funding for athletic directors, coaches, trainers and advisers is also included in this levy.

Prop. 2 is also passing with 54.2 percent of the vote.

This is another levy renewal designed to replace an expiring one with no tax rate increase.

It would fund HVAC systems, roofing, flooring, stadium turfs, portables, technology needs and classroom computers, among other items.

The final measure on the ballot was Prop. 3, which was a replacement bond resulting in no new tax increase.

As of Wednesday morning, it had only gained 53.1 percent of the vote.

It would have gone toward keeping facilities up to date and provide more space for the student body across the district, which has grown at a rate of around 700 new students annually in recent years.

The current enrollment for the district is around 29,600 students making LWSD the third largest district in the state.

According to LWSD, schools are overcrowded and there is not enough classroom space to meet the needs of new students.

This has led to overcrowding in existing spaces, the addition of 171 portables with more on the way and ad-hoc classrooms being created.

“We’ve got schools in different parts of the district where we’re really carving out space for students in hallways and areas that weren’t designed to be classrooms,” Pierce said.

The district would like to replace aging facilities through bonds since it receives no state funding for facilities.

Since the bond is failing, other options on top of adding more portables could include moving programs around to other schools or redrawing school boundary lines.

Pierce didn’t think the bond would gain enough votes by the final tally to push it over the 60 percent threshold.

“The only way we can build schools for our students is through local community support,” Pierce said.

This bond was the second of four planned measures to address overcrowding. The first was passed in April 2016 and funded eight construction projects.

The series of bonds stemmed from the failure of previous bond measures to gain approval on the ballot.

A long term facility task force was convened in 2014 to lay out an improvement plan through 2029-2030.

The bond on this weeks ballot would have remodels at Kamiakin Middle School and Alcott Elementary, construct a new elementary school and a new choice high school in Sammamish and a Lake Washington High School addition.

Pierce said the task force will reconvene and examine alternatives for providing learning space for students.

They will additionally need to reassess planned future bonds, which were scheduled to be placed on ballots in 2022 and 2026.

“I can’t say today what the plan will be in terms of future bond measures or not, I can tell you that we have to have classroom space for students,” Pierce said. “…When bonds don’t pass, it makes it challenging for us.”

In total, the two levies and the bond would have reduced the overall tax burden from $3.16 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $2.93.

In previous coverage, district staff said this was due to a reduction in Prop. 1. The levy amount was reduced from $1.26 to $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The reason given for not asking for more in the levy was increases in the state property taxes for education stemming from the state Supreme Court McCleary Decision.

The McCleary Decision raised the property tax statewide by $101 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to the Seattle Times.

The county assessors office also announced that property taxes would rise by 17 percent on average across King County this year.

This story will be updated.

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