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Regional News

Spokane area school levies pass, though margins are often closer than in past years

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Doug Nadvornick/SPR
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Voters in Spokane resoundingly voted yes for a $65 million levy Tuesday.

About 64% voted in favor of the measure in an election where more than a third of registered voters in Spokane County participated.

Fourteen school districts had levies on the special election ballot Tuesday and every measure appears to be passing.

School levies in Spokane County districts often pass easily with 60% or greater approval. This time around, several districts are in the 50s. Mead, for example, is at about 52%. Superintendent Shawn Woodward isn’t ready to claim victory.

“You know, not quite yet," he said with a laugh. "We’re about 670 votes to the good right now. I know I’ll probably sleep well tonight and wake up early tomorrow to see if anything’s changed. Overall, feeling pretty good.”

Nine Mile Falls is also in the 52% range. Others with still close races include Central Valley, with a little more than 53% approval.

CV Superintendent Ben Small says, because of the pandemic, the district had to adjust the way it normally communicates with voters.

“We usually have face-to-face meetings where we invite people in so that we can have those conversations to talk about what is important to us as a school district and what is important to the community. We had to transition to webinars. Those were, I think, effective, but they’re very different," he said.

Deer Park is in the 54% range. Cheney’s around 55%. Riverside and Medical Lake are both around 56%, Liberty’s at 57%.

Besides Spokane, others above 60% include Orchard Prairie and Great Northern. Reardan-Edwall’s levy is at 45% in Spokane County, but running strong in Lincoln County. Rosalia’s levy has good support in both Spokane and Whitman counties.

The majority of levies on the ballots will pay for school operations, which includes school staff and programs. School district leaders said the levies were needed to pay for school nurses and custodial staff, as well as extracurricular activities and some programs that support students.

Several school districts including West Valley, Freeman, and Cheney also had capital levies on the ballot. All of those appeared to be passing Tuesday night. Those will pay for school infrastructure projects.

“Running a levy in a pandemic was not our favorite thing to do, but our community came out and supported the programs and especially when we’re in the middle of a hybrid schedule," said West Valley Superintendent Kyle Rydell.

According to preliminary election results, more than 121,000 ballots were cast with a little less than 2,000 left to count. Turnout is at about 36% in Spokane County. Votes will be counted for several more days.

Adam Swinyard, the Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools said the levy will allow the district to focus on returning to in person instruction later this spring. He also thanked the school’s staff, saying their work before and during the pandemic has created a strong school system that voters can support.

“We were very excited to see the initial results and incredibly grateful to our community for their ongoing investment and support in our kids, and in our school district,” he said.

The Spokane Public Schools levy makes make up nearly 14% of the district’s budget and will be in place until 2024, according to numbers released by the school district. The levy replaced an expiring tax and will generate $65 million next year, about $74 million in 2023 and about $82 million in 2024.

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