News

'Relief:' School levies pass

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

Initial election results show that both the educational programs and operations levy and the technology levy have passed by at least the required 60 percent super-majority, to the joy of Federal Way Public Schools officials and others.

As of Thursday evening, 100 percent of poll ballots from Tuesday’s election were counted, while at least 60 percent of absentee ballots had been tallied.

King County Elections officials said they don’t anticipate the remaining absentee ballots to drastically affect the final results. Both levies will probably pass after official election results are released next Friday after 4 p.m.

“We’re thrilled,” said Deb Stenberg, a spokeswoman for the school district. “We want to thank the community for their continued support –– in particular, the community members and volunteers who served on the Citizens for Federal Way Schools campaign. Their efforts were extraordinary.”

The president of the citizens’ group, Teri Hickel said, “I am overwhelmed with relief that the voters in our community supported both measures. They were critical to the operation of our schools and 22,300-plus students. Elections and campaigns can be such a distraction. Now we can concentrate on other important issues for four years. Four years!“

“The citizens committee was amazing,” she added. “We had broad and committed support from a variety of volunteers. Our two co-chairs, Audrey Germanis and Tia Hendrix, did an outstanding job keeping the committee (chairpersons) organized. We had over 350 volunteers speaking, phoning, waving signs, writing letters, building signs, copying car signs, distributing buttons. It was a huge effort by many, and we're thrilled with the result.”

“We knew all along that the citizens of Federal Way supported our children and our educational system,” said Citizens for Federal Way Public Schools vice president Audrey Germanis. “So a big thank you goes to all those who turned out to vote yes for our schools.”

School Board members also weighed in.

The successful levies “will help us be able to afford all the programs which we currently have in place,” said board member Ed Barney.

He added that he wasn’t too concerned the levies would fail because of the recent middle school issue. Community members criticized the board recently for questioning whether the district should go forward with construction of a new middle school, as approved by voters in a bond election in 1999. Concern arose that some voters would withhold support of the operations and technology levies if the board didn’t stick to the original middle school plan, which board members did in a 3-1 vote last month.

“Most folks I talked to knew the difference between a levy and a bond,” Barney said.

Board member Charlie Hoff said he’s “quite happy” that the levies passed. “While it doesn’t increase our funding levels, I hesitate to think what the schools would look like if we wouldn’t have passed them. The budget cuts that would have to take place (otherwise) would be very significant.”

In early vote-counting, Proposition 1 –– the educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy –– had a 62 percent approval. Proposition 2 –– the technology levy –– was at 62.9 percent.

Approximately 15,000 ballots were cast, easily topping the minimum voter turnout of 7,692 required for the levy election to be validated.

Taxes in support ofthe EP&O levy will start in 2005 at $2.93 per $1,000 of the assessed valuation of a home/property, and will decrease by four cents a year through 2008. The revenue will be earmarked for day-to-day operations of educational programs, including an estimated 70 percent of the salaries for teachers, librarians, counselors, custodians and other school employees. Levy dollars also pay for staff training, supplies and materials, newsletters to parents, cleaning supplies and books.

The most the technology levy is scheduled to collect in any of the four years beginning in 2005 is 19 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation, roughly $2 a month for a home valued at $150,000. The levy was the district’s specifically for buying or upgrading computer equipment.

Of the district’s 6,200 computers –– 87 percent of them in classrooms –– more than one-third can’t be networked for Internet use, and 72 percent are at least five years old. Older computers often can’t support educational software and CD-ROMs, officials said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eiciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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