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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Public Schools moves ahead with $221 million levy proposal

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 19, 2020

While emphasizing that it still must make cutbacks to make ends meet, Spokane Public Schools gave final approval Wednesday night to a three-year, $221.6 million replacement levy proposal.

Approval came on a 4-0 vote of the directors, who had given tentative approval earlier this month. Now, with final language approved, it will go to voters Feb. 9.

Officially known as an educational programs and operation levy, it will replace the levy that expires next year.

If approved, it would cost taxpayers $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2021, 5 cents more the following year and $2.50 in the final year.

For a home assessed at $300,000, that comes out to $720, $735 and $750 per year, respectively.

If the levy is approved, the overall education tax burden for Spokane County taxpayers would rise from $7.02 per thousand this year to $7.40 in 2022, $7.45 the following year and $7.50 per thousand in 2024.

Because of a change in the statewide funding model in the wake of the 2018 McCleary decision, a state supreme court case, the overall burden would be lower than in any year since 2010.

The levy would pay for a variety of programs and personnel not covered by the state, including special education, elementary specialists, librarians, nurses, counselors, behavioral specialists, English Language Learners, curriculum materials, music, art and athletics.

It is still unclear how the district would prioritize those areas, many of which are underfunded by the state.

“Regardless, there will be belt-tightening ahead,” Superintendent Adam Swinyard said.

Spokane voters have traditionally given overwhelming support to levies, which require a simple majority for passage.

Approval rates topped 80% at the turn of the millennium before falling into the 60s during the recession. The most recent levy, in 2018, was backed by 73% of Spokane voters who cast a ballot.

Much has changed since then. COVID-19 has wracked the economy, teachers have received substantial pay raises while many taxpayers are out of work, and a significant number of families are upset at how Spokane and other districts are handling the pandemic and online learning.

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