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March 7, 2021

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Evergreen school levies off to narrow, early lead

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

Evergreen Public Schools voters were narrowly supporting two proposed levies as of Tuesday night. More results will be released in the coming days; but for now, district officials are hopeful about the results.

“We hope things continue to go in our favor,” school board President Julie Bocanegra said shortly after results were released. Historically, late ballots in Evergreen Public Schools trend in favor of school funding measures, she added.

“We’re definitely optimistic,” she said.

Clark County’s largest school district was asking voters to approve two levies: a replacement school programs levy and a technology levy. The three-year, $105.9 million educational program levy is passing with 50.3 percent support. Of the 21,408 ballots cast, 10,759 voters supported the measure. That levy will pay for programs like athletics, performing arts programs, school safety programs and additional staff above what the state currently funds.

The district also, for the first time, ran a technology levy, expected to raise $59.3 million over the next six years. That levy was passing with 50.5 percent approval, with 10,209 of the 20,227 voters supporting the new tax. The levy will pay for digital curriculum, maintaining student devices and improved security technology.

This is the first time voters cast ballots in a school funding election since legislators approved a new school funding formula two years ago, which Bocanegra acknowledged.

“I think running a levy is different from years past,” Bocanegra said.

The formula relies on a levy swap, which raised state education taxes while capping local levies at the rate — $1.50 per thousand in assessed value — that voters were supporting Tuesday evening. Taxpayers throughout Clark County are expected to see a tax decrease even with school levies passing Tuesday night because of that levy cap.

Though Evergreen has not publicly announced the type of budget cuts its western neighbors in Vancouver Public Schools have, Superintendent John Steach has warned that the district could face a budget deficit. Like Vancouver district officials, Steach points to the multimillion dollar contract the district reached with its teacher union, as well as the decline in local revenues, as cause for concern as the district develops next year’s budget.

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