South End extends long history of school support

February elections may be the South Whidbey School District’s go-to vote.

Since 2000, every special election held in February by the school district has passed. That includes Tuesday’s approval of two school levies, a total that was padded with an added count Thursday.

Each levy remained at a supermajority of more than 60 percent, though levies only require a simple majority of 50 percent plus 1 vote.

The $3.9 million maintenance and operations levy added 288 yeas against 105 “no” votes. Given the M&O levy was a renewal and did not request a tax increase, its major support was an easier approval for voters.

Adding $1 million to the capital/technology levy, mostly for repairs and deferred maintenance, presented a different challenge to the district and voters. But taxpayers approved it nonetheless, and with 62 percent approval. Even after the revised count, voter approval remained at 62 percent, with an additional 262 ballots for and 153 against the capital/technology levy.

South Whidbey has a long history of supporting its school levies, even if recent events may show differently. The last time the school board sought money from the public was for a bond. Voters resoundingly rejected the November 2010 measure, with 56.63 percent opposing it. Only 3,908 voters supported the bond.

In the 2010 election, 9,010 voters cast their lots.

This year, 12,059 ballots were mailed to registered voters, and only 5,757 ballots were counted. Low voter turnout, which historically occurs during special elections, has been a consistent factor for school levies. Since the turn of the millennium, only a couple of elections had returns higher than 50 percent.

In 2000, 57 percent of registered voters on South Whidbey had their ballots counted.

The other time was in 2004, when 50.76 percent of registered voters had ballots counted.

For the past two South Whidbey School District special elections, voter turnout hovered around 6,200. The levy elections in 2008 were tied to the presidential primary and saw an increase in participation of about 1,600 voters. All three levies — maintenance and operations, capital/technology and transportation — passed with 60 percent or more approval. Elections in 2010, nine months before the ill-fated bond measure, saw 3,908 voters approve the M&O levy and 3,799 approve the capital/tech levy.

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