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News >  K-12 education

School levies at stake in Tuesday’s election; turnout up by 30%

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 8, 2021

Voters are casting ballots toding requests is high.  (Libby Kamrowski)
Voters are casting ballots toding requests is high. (Libby Kamrowski)

Interest is running high in Tuesday’s school levy elections in Spokane County.

As of Monday afternoon, 113,441 ballots had been returned to the Spokane County Auditor’s Office.

In raw numbers, that’s an increase of roughly 30% over the previous two major levy elections: in 2018, when about 86,000 ballots had been received up to the day before the election, and in 2015, when 89,000 ballots were received.

Elections officials do note, however, that the number of ballots sent to voters for Tuesday’s election is 337,359. That’s an increase of 50,000 from 2018.

Percentagewise, “we expect about the same as the 2018 election,” said Mike McLaughlin, elections manager for the county.

However, it could be higher. Three years ago, final turnout was 36.8%. As of Monday afternoon, turnout for this year stood at 33.6%.

The results will be posted shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to McLaughlin.

The largest district, Spokane Public Schools, is seeking approval of a three-year, $221.6 million replacement levy that the district says will fill gaps not covered by the state, such as nurses, counselors, special education and other programs.

Officially known as an educational programs and operation levy, it would replace the $106 million levy that expires next year. That levy was approved in 2018 by 73% of voters.

Other local districts also passed levies by wide margins in 2018.

Unlike bond measures, which require a 60% supermajority for passage, levies need only a simple majority.

However, enthusiasm may be dampened this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, which in some districts moved children to remote learning.

As districts have brought students back to buildings, they’ve faced criticism for moving too slowly or quickly.

Political battle lines have formed around the Spokane levy proposal.

Four weeks before Election Day, the Spokane County Republican Party issued a statement opposing the levy, a divided Spokane City Council on Monday gave its support and Greater Spokane Incorporated pledged its backing for the measure.

Central Valley is seeking approval for a three-year, $95.3 million levy. If passed, the levy would raise $29.2 million next year, $31.1 million in 2023 and $33 million in 2024.

Voters in the Mead School District will decide the fate of a three-year, $53.2 million levy. Like those proposed in other districts, it will pay for many programs and personnel not covered by state and federal support.

Drop boxes will close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. No postage is required.

For those with questions, voter service sites are open through Tuesday.

It is not too late to register.

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