The Lake Washington School District is seeking to replace two expiring levies — the Educational Programs and Operations (EP&O) Levy and the School Technology and Capital Projects Levy — while incorporating one capital construction levy on the Feb. 8 special election ballot.
“In February 2022, we will be asking our voters to consider three ballot measures to ensure excellence for all of our students,” said Jon Holmen, LWSD Superintendent, in a Dec. 2021 statement. “These levies fund student programs and services not covered by the state by providing staffing, academic programs, technology, and safe and healthy school buildings.”
According to LWSD, the state provides partial funding for what students require to excel in school. Fourteen percent of the school district’s overall budget comes from the EP&O levy, which supports school staff, student opportunities and programs.
School staff funding under the EP&O levy covers nurses, counselors, substitute teachers, mental health professionals, campus safety, special education and highly capable teachers, among others.
About 71 percent of school nurses and 33 percent of counsellors and mental health professionals are funded under this levy. About 32 percent of the special education budget and 71 percent of the highly capable budget are also funded under this levy, according to the school district.
Student opportunities that would be covered are music and arts programs as well as additional course offerings — including a seven-period day for high schoolers to support graduation requirements, summer learning, and extracurriculars such as athletics. LWSD reports that 100 percent of funding for athletics comes from the EP&O levy.
The School Technology and Capital Projects levy ensures technology for all students, staff and classrooms, according to the school district. During a Jan. 6 virtual presentation and Q&A session, Superintendent Holmen brought up how critical this levy is.
“It’s important to note that this levy actually provides 90% of the funding that the district requires for both our technology and facility upgrades,” said Holmen.
Technological upgrades consist of newer systems to support schools; access to digital learning; laptops and tablets for all students and staff; training and development for new technology; and software, among others.
Additionally, this levy allows for the school district to maintain investments and building modifications such as the replacement of aging buildings, along with other campus improvements.
“This levy also provides for the required health and safety updates at our buildings, such as when codes change, and we need to update our facilities to ensure that our students are learning in schools that are healthy, safe and up to code,” said Holmen.
LWSD is the fastest growing school district in King County. Since 2008, it has gained over 7,300 students, and it is projected to grow by another 3,500 students by 2030. According to the school district, if nothing is done, by 2030 about 83 percent of schools will be over capacity.
“This Building Excellence Construction levy replaces expiring bonds and provides funding for critical construction projects to make sure our students actually have room to learn,” said Holmen.
Funding under this levy would allow for the creation of additional classroom space. Plans for greater space include adding a new school on underdeveloped land on the Redmond Elementary School campus with up to 24 classrooms for approximately 550 students.
Finn Hill, Kirkland and Redmond middle schools would also increase their capacities for an additional 600 students, while LWSD high schools will increase capacity for about 1,200 students. Furthermore, this levy allows for the school district to acquire properties for future schools.
Cost of levies
If approved, the levies will be in effect for the next four years. The EP&O levy’s estimated tax rate is $1.03 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and the Capital Projects levy is estimated to be $0.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The Build Excellence levy is estimated to be $0.52 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This rate, combined with previously approved construction measures, will create a total rate of $1.32 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The total combined tax rate of these three levies is estimated at $2.84 per $1,000 in assessed property value.
On Jan. 19, ballots will be mailed to voters, with Jan. 31 being the deadline for updating and registering as a voter. For the remainder of the month, LWSD will host virtual Q&A sessions with the community regarding the levies. The next virtual meeting is scheduled to take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Jan. 12.
For more information, visit https://www.lwsd.org/education-levies/town-hall-meetings