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Friday, March 1, 2024
March 1, 2024

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Washougal, Woodland school levies on Tuesday’s ballot

Districts ask residents to pass funding measures

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Voters in Washougal and Woodland, heads up: The deadline to get special election ballots for local schools funding measures is right around the corner.

Tuesday will be the last day for voters in each respective town to cast their votes on replacement levies for the Washougal School District and Woodland Public Schools. Since both districts failed attempts to pass these levies at the Feb. 14 special election earlier this year, this will be each district’s last chance to approve continued funding for next school year.

Without the support of a local levy — which the vast majority of school districts in Washington maintain — each district would be forced to make massive cuts to staff, nursing and counseling services, elective classes and extracurricular activities like athletics.

Washougal running two levies

The two measures Washougal set to run in April are unchanged from the levies that failed on Feb. 14. The measures are a combined effort to replace an existing levy that is set to expire at the end of this year.

The first measure — the enhanced programs and operations levy — funds extracurricular activities, student programs and staff supports not funded by the state. It is expected to collect $31.5 million over 2024, 2025 and 2026 at an estimated rate of $1.99 per $1,000 assessed property value.

The second measure — the capital levy for technology, health and safety — will fund tech upgrades throughout the district and a new roof for Washougal High School. That measure is expected to collect $9.05 million over three years at an estimated rate of 21 cents per $1,000 assessed property value in 2024, 84 cents per $1,000 in 2025 and 85 cents per $1,000 in 2026.

Washougal superintendent Mary Templeton estimates that 18 percent of the district’s annual budget is funded by the existing levy. In the weeks since the February failure, Templeton and other district leaders have ramped up communication campaigns about the levy to better reach voters who may have been unaware of the measures’ importance.

“There’s a lot of disproving misinformation, but we get to sit down and talk about that,” Templeton said last month at one of the district’s recent listening sessions: discussion-based gatherings at local schools that offer community stakeholders to sit down one-on-one with leaders and board members to learn about the levy and other district issues. “And we get to say it’s not a new tax and that, for the last 40 years, we’ve had uninterrupted levies running just about every three years to provide what the state hasn’t paid for.”

Templeton said she remains optimistic despite the raised stakes, pointing to how February’s measures failed by only a few hundred votes.

More information on what Washougal’s levies are expected to provide can be found on the district’s website at www.washougal.k12.wa.us/district-budget-information/levy.

Woodland reruns one measure

The conditions of Woodland Public Schools’ proposed measure is also unchanged from the levy that failed Feb. 14 and will also replace an existing levy set to expire at the end of this year. The district also chalks up the failure to a lack of adequate messaging and miscommunication that this measure, too, is a replacement and not a new tax.

The measure would collect $18.77 million over three years at an estimated rate of $1.91 per $1,000 assessed property value.

Fifty-seven percent of levy funds, the district said, would go to supporting basic education resources like teacher and paraeducator salaries. The remainder would go to school safety supports, groundskeeping, and extracurricular activities like athletics and performing arts programs.

More information on what Woodland’s levy would support can be found on the district’s website at www.woodlandschools.org/levy.

Ballots must be either deposited to a designated ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday or postmarked by April 25 to be counted.

Preliminary election results — which will feature combined results from Clark and Skamania counties for Washougal and Clark and Cowlitz counties for Woodland, respectively — are expected to be released by 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Up-to-date results will be available on The Columbian’s website at https://www.columbian.com/elections/.

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