The Kent Education Association (KEA, teachers’ union) took to the streets to encourage support for the April 23 Kent School District levy. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Education Association

The Kent Education Association (KEA, teachers’ union) took to the streets to encourage support for the April 23 Kent School District levy. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent Education Association

Voters strongly defeating Kent School District levy

Nearly 60% against Capital Projects and Technology Levy on April 23 ballot

Voters are overwhelmingly turning down a Kent School District $190.2 million Capital Projects and Technology Levy.

A total of 11,764 (59.13%) voters marked no while just 8,131 (40.87%) voted yes, according to special election results released Tuesday night, April 23 by King County Elections.

The levy on the April 23 ballot appears to be on the way to a lopsided defeat compared to November 2023 when 48.87% of voters were in favor of basically the same measure. Fifty percent is needed for approval. Vote counts will be released each weekday until the election is certified May 3.

If approved, the levy would provide a majority of funding over the next three years (2025 to 2027) for health and safety upgrades, facility equipment replacements and improvements and technology education, according to the district. The projects are close to the same as the November 2023 measure because those are still the highest priority needs based on professional assessments of Kent School District facilities, according to the district.

Voters also rejected a $495 million bond in April 2023 to upgrade schools with 48% in favor while 60% approval was needed because it was a bond measure.

Voters barely approved a six-year Capital Projects and Technology Levy in 2018 with 50.02% in favor to bring in about $146 million over six years. That measure is expiring after bringing in $29 million for 2024.

The new levy includes a tax rate of $1.36 per $1,000 assessed property value, which would bring in about $60 million in 2025, $63 million in 2026 and $66 million in 2027, according to district documents.

District residents Joseph Riley and Shaw Bettinger, who wrote a statement for voters against the levy on the King County Elections website, criticized how this levy would bring in about $60 million per year compared to $30 million per year under the expiring levy approved six years ago.

“Half-truths, empty promises, and zero accountability,” Riley and Bettinger wrote. “After a bond and levy failure, two community feedback surveys, and numerous presentations, there is virtually no difference between this levy and the previously failed attempts: same tax amount, same projects, no changes to transparency or accountability.”

The levy had the support of local politicians Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, Covington Mayor Jeff Wagner and Kent City Councilmember Bill Boyce, who wrote a statement for voters in favor of the measure on the elections website.

With the expected defeat of the levy, the Kent School Board, Superintendent Israel Vela and his staff will have to figure out next steps. The board has its monthly meeting on Wednesday evening, April 24.

Voters approved in November 2023 the district’s Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy, which covers about 15% of the general fund, including monies for athletics, music and arts, which are not funded by the state. The levy also funds special education, advanced learning programs and multilingual education.

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