School replacement levies head to ballot

The South Whidbey School Board approved the addition of two replacement levies on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The South Whidbey School Board unanimously approved the addition of two replacement levies on the Nov. 5 ballot during a meeting on June 26.

If approved by a majority of voters in the district, the levies would continue to collect property tax money for facility and technology upgrades as well as educational programs, covering the gap between state funding and the actual cost of operations.

Like many districts around the state, South Whidbey has been dealing with decreasing enrollment, loss of federal funds from the pandemic era, inflation and the state’s funding model that, according to district officials, leaves programs underfunded or unfunded.

The capital improvements to educational facilities and the educational programs and operations levies are not new, but simply replacing levies that expire in 2025.

The first was approved with 70.5% yes votes in 2019 and will collect $2.25 million in 2025 (its last year). The latter was approved with 72.59% yes votes in 2022 and will collect $3.6 million next year.

The district will only collect what it’s allowed by the statewide levy cap for the Educational Programs and Operations levy, while asking for another $250,000 a year for capital improvements because costs have gone up, according to Board President Brook Willeford.

The capital improvements levy will collect $2.5 million each year between 2026 and 2031, while the educational programs and operations levy will collect $3.9 million in 2026, $4 million in 2027 and $4.1 million in 2028 — its final year.

The capital improvements levy would provide the district a total of $15 million, which would go into the Capital Improvement Fund. This money would be used for the construction, renovation and improvement of facilities, the installation of technology systems, upgrades to security, electrical, heat and air conditioning systems and more.

According to the resolution, which is available in board documents, the district currently lacks the funds necessary to make these improvements.

The levy rates depend on the final dollar amount of assessed value of the property to be taxed. In 2026, the district estimates it will collect 28 cents for every $1,000 of property value. In 2031, that is expected to go down to 19 cents.

The Educational Programs and Operations Replacement Levy would collect a total of $12 million, supporting programs that receive little or no funding from the state’s education funding model, such as sports, art and music programs, paying for teaching, paraeducators, school supplies, technology and transportation.

The levy will be about 43 cents for every $1,000 of property value in 2026, 41 cents per $1,000 in 2027 and 39 cents per $1,000 in 2028.

The district is seeking volunteers to write pro and con statements for the levy renewal initiative. Community members who are interested in joining the Pro and Con Committee have until July 24 to contact the district at and apply.

The board will appoint committee members at the July 24 meeting and finalize any changes to the levy resolutions. The district will then file a resolution, an explanatory statement and pro and con statements by Aug. 6, submitting the statements by Aug. 16.

The district is currently in the process of developing a budget for the 2024-25 school year, which will be available to the public on July 10 during the budget presentation workshop. This will be followed by an official budget hearing and adoption on July 24. The budget is due to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction by Aug. 1.