Washougal, WA — Citing low voter turnout on the February 14 special election, and with 100 positions at risk, the Washougal Board of Directors has proposed re-balloting two failed levies — the replacement EP&O, and Capital — for a special April 25 election.
Levies fill a 20 percent funding gap in the Washougal School District (WSD) budget.
The replacement Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy, or Proposition 10, failed 51%-48% (more “no” votes) while Proposition 11, the replacement capital facilities and technology levy, failed 51.5%-48.4% (more “no” votes).
For the second special election, the levies are known as Propositions 11 and 12.
“Schools would not look the same without levy funds,” said Superintendent Dr. Mary Templeton. “Without this levy funding, Washougal School District would be unable to fund school extracurriculars, athletics, performing arts, classroom teachers to maintain smaller class sizes, technology devices, and more.
“Levies pay the people on the ground at schools, teaching and supporting Washougal youth. The reality is that without levy funding, significant cuts would need to be made to school staffing, which is 85 percent of the budget. A list of cuts that would be needed in the event of a double levy failure was reviewed with the board at their February 28, 2023 meeting. The list is available on the district website, and includes 40 teaching positions, 44 classified staff positions, five administrative positions, and 155 coaches and club advisors.”
Templeton added that “levies are important to strong schools and a strong community.”
The Washougal School Board has scheduled listening tours to gather feedback from voters about the recent levy results, and has shared a survey with district parents, staff, and community members.
WSD said “reintroducing the measures on the April ballot provides opportunities for the district to correct misconceptions and misunderstandings of the proposed levies that have surfaced in conversations with voters and in the survey results.”
The cost to run a special election varies by the size of the jurisdiction, but according Washington state RCW 29A.04.410: “Every city, town, and district is liable for its proportionate share of the costs. Special election costs must be borne by the city, town, or district concerned.”
February 2020’s special election cost $44,000, as a reference point.
In their statement, WSD said The board has highlighted the need to clearly communicate that the levies are not new taxes, and plans talk directly about the impact on student programs should the levies fail again, and ensure voters understand value of the programs and staff supported directly by the levies.
“Our youth need opportunities to engage in positive after-school activities,” said Jim Cooper, WSD Board Member. “The local levy is the way school districts in Washington state fund the sports and clubs that engage kids .Can you imagine what the Washougal community would be like with 1,000 teenagers hanging out after school with nothing positive to do?”
WSD said these levies are not new taxes, but rather they replace the EP&O Levy and Tech Levy expiring at the end of 2023. Combined, the proposed EP&O and Capital levy rates are lower than school levy rates approved by Washougal voters in 2020. The EP&O levy is proposed at a rate of $1.99 per thousand of assessed valuation, which is lower than the previously approved $2.14 rate. The EP&O and Capital levies work in tandem to fund student programs, staffing, and keep schools in good repair.
Voters are invited to Listening Tours hosted by the Washougal School Board to gather feedback from voters about the recent levy results. At these events, citizens may sit and chat with a board member, ask questions, and share ideas about Washougal schools.
The public may also provide feedback to the school board via a survey. Listening tours are scheduled for March 16 & 28, and April 11 and 21. Time and location information is available on the Washougal School District website.
If the second levy fails, the school board would need to take action to determine next steps. Most reductions would occur after the end of the current school year. The impacts of these significant cuts would be visible starting in the 2023-24 school year.