Time to vote, again: Seattle school levies on special ballot

You might have been surprised to receive a ballot in the mail this week. King County is holding a special election on February 9. In Seattle, we’re voting on two measures: Proposition 1: Capital Levy and Proposition 2: Operations Levy. These links go to King County Elections measure information pages with a description of the propositions, ‘FOR’ and ‘AGAINST’ statements and rebuttals. The levies would replace existing property taxes that are about to expire — the capital levy cycle is a six-year process while the operations levy comes up for renewal every three years.

On Capitol Hill, many of us are the kind of people falling over ourselves to approve the renewals. CHS likes paying taxes that go to schools. The rest of the city probably isn’t far behind. Even those stingy codgers on the Seattle Times editorial board want to pay this tax:

The two money measures from Seattle Public Schools are worthy of approval. One would finance a $270 million building-maintenance effort that would run the gamut from roof replacements and seismic upgrades to improvements in the technology that helps students learn. Taxpayers would pay an average of 30 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value for six years, starting in 2011.

The second levy would pay for the basics left out of state funding, including full-day kindergarten, textbooks and classroom supplies, transportation and security. This is a three-year levy that would increase property tax rates from $1.06 to $1.11 per $1,000 of assessed valuation next year.

Voters antsy about taxes should not be confused. The levies are not new taxes, but a renewal of expiring ones.

Passage of school levies isn’t always guaranteed in the city — but rejection is pretty rare. Seattle PI has information on some past failures:

In 1975, the district’s operating levy failed a second time, which led to a permanently shortened elementary day and less frequent classroom cleaning.

Voters turned down capital measures four times starting in 1992, finally passing a revised version in 1995. A capital levy was rejected in February 1996, but voters overwhelmingly approved the $150 million levy the following month.

To help make sure something like that doesn’t happen in 2010, Schools First is busy contacting voters and spreading the word about the election. They provided CHS with this Capitol Hill-specific report on their effort:

School Supporters Call Thousands of Voters as Ballots Hit Mailboxes
Schools First Supporters Encouraged Voters to Vote Yes! on Propositions 1 & 2, the Seattle Public School Levies, in the Feb. 9th Special Election

 Seattle – The campaign to renew the Seattle public school levies hosted a campaign phone drive Wednesday evening at the campaign headquarters as King County Elections mailed out just over 360,000 ballots for the February 9th Special Election.

Amy Broomhall

 PTA representatives, educators, current and former SPS students, and Schools First supporters made calls to thousands of voters reminding them to check their mailboxes and encouraging them to vote Yes! on Propositions 1 & 2, the Seattle Public Schools Operating and Capital levies.

 Capitol Hill resident Amy Broomhall who turned out to make calls said, “My son goes to school at BF Day Elementary in Fremont. I think education is probably one of the most important things that we can do to improve our community. And anything that helps education is good by me.”

 Levy funding currently accounts for 23% of the Operations Budget and 100% of the Capital Improvements Budget.  Proposition 1, the Capital Levy, funds safety improvements, classroom upgrades to our schools, athletic field replacement, and improvements to technology for every classroom. Proposition 2, the Operations Levy, helps pay for instructional programs, student activities, staff salaries, bilingual and special education services, technology infrastructure, student transportation and security and maintenance.

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12 thoughts on “Time to vote, again: Seattle school levies on special ballot

  1. For cost cutting reasons King County Elections has closed all but 2 ballot drop off locations. The only remaining ones are at their temporary headquarters at 9010 E Marginal Way South in Tukwilla, or the King County Administration Building on 4th Ave. These closures are not just for the smaller spring elections, but will continue for this fall’s primary and general elections.

  2. No one has yet mentioned the “For Lease” sign in Tilden’s window. Hope it’s a local business that goes in. Please not another bar or cafe.

  3. How can we expect the society we all desire without good functioning free public schools? Money is one of the keys to the goal of better schools.

    I feel very strongly about quality schools. Seattle has a ways to go, but, the money is needed to operate despite other problems to solve.

    Please vote and vote – YES. (mail back ballots are so simple)


  4. Or no, if you believe that the governor and legislature should obey the state constitution’s direction to amply fund public education.

  5. Sure, vote no, if you want to cut off your nose to spite your face.

    Full school funding from the legislature for the richest city in the state is a pipe dream.

    Would be nice, not likely any time soon.

  6. Yes, I know, how can a Seattle schools parent say no to a school levy? When it’s using a garden hose to put out a forest fire, that’s how.
    I’m a long-time activist in our district and I write for the Seattle education blog, Save Seattle Schools (saveseattleschools.blogspot.com). I ask you to consider the following:
    – the district has a $500M backlog in maintenance. This is neither normal nor good for any district. We got here because our district has continued (for at least 15+ years) to cut the basic maintenance budget and defer maintenance. The outcome of that is easy to see; you, the taxpayer, get to pay more for repairs that would have cost less if done sooner.
    – the head of Maintenance, Mark Pflueger, told a Board committee that he does NO maintenance “all I do is put out fires”. His budget is a little more than half of what the district spent in 1979.
    – we cannot “levy” our way out of the backlog. This levy will hit maybe 10-15% and our next BEX (remodeling/renovation) is 3 years off and neither of them can be done fast enough to really help
    – the $270M budget gets eaten up fast by technology issues, athletic fields, 5 reopening schools (that’s $50M right there). There is not much left for schools that have been waiting for maintenance.
    -John Stanford, in 1995, wanted a maintenance levy OVER a technology levy because the maintenance backlog was at $185M. If John Stanford was worried about the backlog at $185M in 1995, why isn’t our district when it’s at almost $500M in 2010?

    My prediction is it will pass BUT they will come to taxpayers in a few short years with a FOURTH levy to attack the backlog. Is it fair to our friends and neighbors who don’t have children in the system or don’t have children at all, to pay more because our district doesn’t take care of the facilities that taxpayers invest in? I don’t think so.

  7. Starved for money the district has postponed needed maintance for years.

    So, starve the school district by voting less money, make it worse off $$$$ wise, and that solves some sort of money problem?

    I guess I missed the good outcome.

    Start a reform school finances movement, a real one. I will join. In the mean, I VOTE YES for money for schools. Then, go for reform.

  8. The massive benefit to society for having free public education is the reason to support public school funding. We live in a society where skills generate good jobs, better citizens and less violence, and on and on.

    It is not an issue of who had kids and how many. It is the obligation of society acting as a committee of the whole to provide this funding to enrich all our lives at thousands of collective intersections…. including democracy itself.

    (the larger sense of intercourse could have been worked in here, but, I am getting tired … good old phrasing)

  9. i love SPS students. can’t stand its central administration. wake up people. the staff wastes money everywhere and i do mean everywhere on pursuit of internal politics and fiefdoms. vote down the BTA. make them put it back on the ballot with assurances that they will spend the monexy not just on maintenance but on a list of projects that doesn’t get swapped out depending on the whims of the most powerful staff person at a particular moment. (oh, and pass it the second time around).

  10. You really propose that to teach the district a lesson we should vote no on TWO levies that support technology, building maintenance and student programs? You should be ashamed of yourself. While I absolutely agree that money is wasted by the district, to allow the current generation of public school students to suffer because of this is absurd and harmful. If you want to change the way the district operates why don’t you start some grassroots effort that parents, students, and communinty members can understand and back. I for one, would be happy to hear your solutions. Because if you just want to sit around and complain about the district you’re really part of the problem and not the solution. I will be voiting yes. You should really reconsider your position on the real issues at hand.

  11. We all like to think that it is our responsibility to vote for school levies, but if you look at the numbers, it quickly becomes clear that the problem with Seattle schools isn’t money. The general fund expenses per student in Seattle is more than $12,000 per year. That figure is well above the $9,050 to $10,300 spent per student in neighboring Edmonds, Northshore, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton and Everett. The operations levy funds 23% of Seattle public schools; about the same amount that we in Seattle are paying above our neighboring districts. Perhaps the SPS superintendent should ask these neighboring school districts how they are able to provide a much better education for so much less money. I’m voting no, and I my nose will stay firmly attached to my face much like the quality of education in Seattle will not be harmed by a smaller budget.