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Levies pass, South Whidbey schools secure $5.9 million

By BEN WATANABE
South Whidbey Record Langley, Clinton, sports, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
February 13, 2013 · 8:47 AM
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Dan Poolman inspects several light posts along the causeway to South Whidbey Elementary School. Duct tape holds the casing in place. / Ben Watanabe / The Record

Major cuts were staved by voters’ major approval of two levies for the South Whidbey School District.

“I’m very pleased,” said Superintendent Jo Moccia.

“We were really hoping for a resounding approval and vote of confidence because the levies make sense.”

Some 5,342 voters cast their ballots in the February election within the South Whidbey School District boundaries. The district’s maintenance and operations levy was approved by 67 percent (3,588) of the voters, and the capital/technology levy was close behind with 62 percent approval (3,320 yeas). Only about 44.3 percent of the 12,059 ballots mailed to voters were returned.

Together, the levies totaled $5.9 million, more than a third of the school district’s nearly $15 million budget. The maintenance and operations levy was a renewal and was not expected to cost property owners within the district more. It remained at $3.9 million annually and would be collected at an approximate rate of $1.04 per $1,000 of assessed property value for the next three years.

The riskier request was for an additional $1 million for capital/technology. Previously, the district’s $950,000 levy was primarily earmarked for technology investment and deployment. Projects like the schools’ integration of iPods, iPads, Apple TV and Smartboards were the face of the $750,000 annual technology levy funds.

District leaders urged voters to support the capital levy to make repairs and upgrades to the five main facilities: four schools and the administrative/maintenance facility. One item has emerged as a top priority across the district.

“We’re already starting to look at plans for a new phone system,” Moccia said.

“We were hoping it wasn’t going to fail as quickly as it has.”

The maintenance and operations levy was set to expire this year. At 26 percent of the school district’s operating budget, renewal of the funds was critical for teaching jobs.

Losing that levy was a future Moccia wouldn’t speculate on in public meetings, other than to ask voters to “imagine what that would look like.”

Retaining the $3.9 million for maintenance and operations meant staff cuts were not expected by the district for next school year.

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