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School districts cite reasons some levies had low support

Concerns about money, dissatisfaction with school districts and frustration with a state budget that expects more basic education to be covered by taxpayers are reasons area educators gave for their levies failing or barely passing.

While the majority of Spokane County school districts’ levies comfortably passed on Tuesday, Deer Park and Riverside school districts fell short. Nine Mile Falls and East Valley school districts succeeded with just over 50 percent approval.

“We obviously need to do something different, but I’m not sure what that will be,” said Roberta Kramer, Riverside School District superintendent. The district is split between north Spokane and south Pend Oreille counties, and the district asked voters to approve a maintenance and operations levy as well as a technology levy.

“We probably had a pretty big ask,” Kramer said.

The district will likely consider changing the levy amount if they ask voters again, she said.

Becky Cooke, Deer Park School District superintendent, said the administration will go to the board and they will decide what to do next, if that’s necessary. Cooke’s district is split up over three counties – Spokane, Pend Oreille and Stevens. The levy was close to passing, but it was still failing with only 49 percent approval, according to updated results released Wednesday.

School districts will have at least one more chance to pass a levy – in April – before making any budget cuts.

The levy is 20 percent of the district’s operating budget, Cooke said. Without that money, it would be “devastating” to the district.

Nine Mile Falls School District, which is split between Spokane and Stevens counties, was still close with just 50.5 percent approval of its levy as of Wednesday.

“I think it is close because folks are tired of paying more for schools because of state cuts,” Superintendent Brian Talbott said. “Schools are being forced to ask people to pick up the tab to continue programs.”

But, he added, “I have to remain optimistic.”

The Spokane County Elections Office counted 14,000 more ballots Wednesday; 3,000 more remain.

With those votes in, East Valley School District had over 52 percent approval.

The narrow win was not too surprising for Superintendent John Glenewinkel.

“I think it was close for a variety of reasons,” he said. “There is a real tax issue out there. People are concerned about their taxes and their money. I think there was a lot of misinformation out there. I think there are some people who are unhappy with the district. I think we would be naive to think that doesn’t have some impact on our potential support.”

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