Vancouver Public Schools officials breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, as voters in the west Vancouver district overwhelmingly voted in favor of two school levies that will fund programs and technology in the district.
The district’s four-year, $147.7 million levy was passing with 63.5 percent support after initial returns were released. Of the 25,415 people who voted, 16,135 approved the levy. The levy will fund school programs, including classroom programs, extracurricular activities, additional staff and building maintenance.
The district’s six-year, $48.8 million technology levy, meanwhile, will pay for the maintenance and upgrades to laptops and tablets and other programs in the district. That measure was passing with 61.8 percent support, with 15,282 of the 24,736 voters supporting that levy.
It’s good news for the school district, which is already projecting a $14.3 million budget deficit next school year, even with the passage of the levy.
District officials blame the state’s new school funding model, the multimillion-dollar contracts approved with district staff unions within the last year and declining enrollment. Just hours before the results were released, school board director Mark Stoker said at the board’s regular meeting that it would have been “catastrophic” for the district had the levies failed.
District administrators celebrated the results at administrative offices, applauding after about 20 tense minutes of refreshing the Clark County Elections Office website on their phones.
“I’m grateful for the continued confidence in students, staff and our strategic direction,” Superintendent Steve Webb said.
This is the first time voters have cast their ballots since legislators approved a new school funding formula two years ago. The formula relies on a levy swap, which raised state education taxes while capping local levies at the $1.50 per thousand in assessed value.
Webb has been critical of the levy swap, which the state adopted following the 2012 McCleary Supreme Court decision that ruled the state was failing to fund basic education.
“Now more than ever, we all need to advocate for a comprehensive set of sensible policy solutions to the McCleary mess handed to us by elected leaders in Olympia,” Webb said at the meeting.