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.
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.