Levy0505

Jeff Burinda drops off his ballot at the Snohomish County ballot box at Lakewood Middle School on April 27.

 

The Lakewood School District will be able to avoid numerous cuts to their programs next year as voters passed their proposed educational programs and operations levy on April 27.

About 53.62 percent of voters approved the measure in the special election.

“We’re very pleased and grateful to our community,” said Lakewood School District Superintendent Scott Peacock. “This will allow us to keep our programs going."

Educational programs and operations levies are used by the majority of local school districts and help fund additional teachers and staff not funded by the state. The levy is expected to provide money for 42 jobs in the Lakewood School District.

“This allows us to continue to fund 23 teachers,” said Peacock. “It supports our growing and rapidly developing vocational programs."

Sometimes the state pays for a baseline of staff positions, but districts see a need for increased counselors or other staff.

“This levy funds school nurses that have been so valuable during this pandemic,” said Peacock. About 89 percent of the funds required to keep at least one nurse in all school buildings comes from the levy.

Other items the levy will support include safety and security positions, training for staff, student transportation, athletic and other extracurricular activities, and family outreach.

The three-year, $19.36 million levy will be paid for with a property tax of $1.80 per $1,000 property valuation.

The tax replaces the former educational and operations levy in which tax payers paid $2.18 per $1,000 property valuation in 2020.

Lakewood voters rejected two replacements for the levy in 2020 and thus will pay no property tax for that specific tax on their 2021 bill.

The school district announced planned reductions in April in case the levy did not pass.

Their contracts with local teacher and staff unions required notification about potential reductions in staff by mid-April.

“We are going to walk those reductions back now,” said Peacock.

Over the past year, when the district did not have any levy collections, they have been using their reserve fund which is money typically saved by school districts to deal with emergencies.

“We’re still going to have to use some of those reserve funds in the fall,” since they won’t receive levy collections until 2022, Peacock said.

Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is expected to take more of the money from the reserve funds, although Peacock said that the district had a “large amount” so he expects the district’s finances to remain healthy.

“At this point we are planning to use some more of those funds to support our recovery programs,” he said.

That includes programs such as summer school for credit retrieval, professional development, and social and emotional support for students.

Peacock thanked Lakewood residents for their support and hopes to remain available for those who continue to have concerns.

“For those residents who voted ‘no’ we want to make sure we are committed to earning your trust,” he said. “Myself and the board are always open to hearing their questions and concerns."

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