Voters had two levies to consider on the Nov. 7 ballot in the Kent School District. FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Voters had two levies to consider on the Nov. 7 ballot in the Kent School District. FILE PHOTO, Kent School District

Voters turning down two Kent School District levies

Each measure needs 50%; operations levy at 47.8% while capital levy at 45.8%

Voters are turning down both Kent School District levies based on results released Tuesday night, Nov. 7 by King County Elections.

Proposition No. 1, the Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy, had 52.16% (8,357) no votes compared to 47.84% (7,664) yes votes on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Proposition No. 2, the Capital Projects and Technology Levy, had 54.20% (8,556) no votes compared to 45.80% (7,229) yes votes.

A simple majority of 50% in favor is needed to pass the measures. King County Elections will release results each weekday and certify the results Nov. 28.

If both measures continue to go down, it will mark a trend of failed measures by the district that has 44 schools and more than 25,000 students. Voters in April soundly defeated a $495 million bond measure, which needed 60% approval but received only 48% in favor.

Ben Rarick, district executive director of budget and finance, said the Educational Programs and Operations Levy will fund about 15% of the general fund, including monies for athletics, music and arts, which are not funded by the state. The levy also would fund special education, advanced learning programs and multilingual education.

The Capital Projects and Tech Levy would fund the district’s 1-to-1 laptop program, which provides a laptop to each student in the district, and pay to modernize safety systems, including intrusion and fire alarms. Monies also would be used to upgrade HVAC systems, roof and boiler replacements, installation of synthetic fields at high schools, new flooring, paint and expand the preschool program to each elementary school.

Kent residents Shawn Bettinger and Joseph Riley submitted statements to King County Elections against both levies.

“The community has consistently asked for more transparency, more classroom support, and smaller class sizes,” according to the statement against Proposition No. 1. “Instead they’ve gotten the opposite, but with steady increases in their tax bill. Send a message to the district that we will not continue to support irresponsible spending.”

Bettinger and Riley also opposed the capital projects levy.

“While this levy will fund air conditioning in schools, it also includes wasteful spending,” Bettinger and Riley wrote. “All high schools will receive new synthetic fields, while Mill Creek Middle School’s dangerous field continues to be ignored. The levy funds the district’s 1:1 technology program requiring laptop replacements every four years, needed or not.”

Several of the projects on the Capital Projects and Technology Levy also were on the bond measure, although the bond included more projects and more spending.

The lopsided bond measure loss in April caused district staff and the Kent School Board to forego another bond proposal and instead go for the two levies in November rather than submit the levies to voters in February 2024, a more typical month for the vote since each current levy expires at the end of 2024. The board hasn’t decided when it might seek another bond to pay for major facility renovations.

Rarick told the board in July, before it approved sending the levies to voters, that 70% of funding for the district comes from the state, 15% from levies and 15% from federal and other funds. He said the levies will need to fund about 20% with less federal monies expected.

Rarick said there’s a big difference between bond and levy measures.

“One thing I want to emphasize, with a bond not passed, we live another day,” he said. “We can’t afford a negative outcome (with the levies).”

Rarick said the levies help pay for salaries and programs needed to operate the district.

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