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School levy results look good

Federal Way Public Schools’ maintenance-and-operations levy proponents got their good news earlier than expected this year.

The district reached its preliminary supermajority requirement of 60 percent and the King County Auditor’s Office counted enough votes to validate the election by 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

The district got the numbers it needed to pass a $50 million, two-year maintenance-and-operations levy early enough for several people gathered at levy headquarters to go home satisfied, but Teri Hickel, the Citizens for Federal Way Schools volunteer who led this year’s levy campaign, was initially nervous.

About 20 school district staff, school board members and community volunteers gathered in a conference room at the Best Western Airport Executel to watch the numbers roll in Tuesday night.

“I wanted it to be at 80 percent,” Hickel said shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. “It’ll have to slowly creep up.”

“It’s like watching water boil,” said Sally McLean, the district’s chief financial officer.

By 9 p.m., the wait was pretty much over — to the surprise of some levy veterans watching the numbers at headquarters.

“In the past, we’ve been scratching to get up close to 60 percent at this time,” said Ed Opstad, who is the treasurer for Citizens for Federal Way Schools.

About 11,528 voters, almost 15 percent of registered voters, voted in the district’s levy election this year, according to the King County Auditor’s Office. About 66 percent approved the levy. The auditor’s office is still counting absentee ballots so the numbers aren’t final.

The levy is a continuation of the 2001-2002 maintenance-and-operations levy and will be distributed across the district the same way, McLean said.

Currently, 37 percent of the last levy pays for certificated staff, including 90 class teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. Thirty-one percent goes toward classified staff — about 200 secretaries, custodians, school security officers and classroom assistants.

Eight percent goes toward literacy training for teachers and staff, 8 percent goes toward transportation, 7 percent pays for school supplies and materials, 7 percent goes toward student athletics and activities with 2 percent earmarked for administrative staff support.

Last year’s part of the two-year levy funding approved provided about $21 million, or 15.5 percent, of the district’s $137 million budget.

State funding provided almost 75 percent, or about $101.6 million of the 2000-2001 budget. Federal funding provided $7.8 million, or 5.7 percent, and other, unspecified sources provided $5.7 million, or 4.2 percent.

Superintendent Tom Murphy said Tuesday night that the vote would be close, but he expected the district would come out with another two-year levy.

“If our pattern holds true to what we’ve done in the past several elections, the numbers will continue to rise in coming days as absentee ballots come in,” he said. “This community has been very supportive of schools for a long time and we have to believe they’ll continue to be supportive.”

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