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Ballots heading out for levy voters on North and South Whidbey

Elections workers Susan Hamilton and M’lissa Christopherson prepare ballots to be mailed for school district levy elections that are scheduled in February. Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey school districts have measures on the February ballot. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Elections workers Susan Hamilton and M’lissa Christopherson prepare ballots to be mailed for school district levy elections that are scheduled in February. Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey school districts have measures on the February ballot.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Ballots for two school district levy election were mailed to military voters last week and voters on North and South Whidbey Island should receive their ballots next week.

Both the Oak Harbor and South Whidbey school districts are running tax levy proposals for voters to consider on Feb. 12.

The Oak Harbor School District is asking voters to approve a levy that will raise $7.35 million a year for the next four years. The levy will cost a homeowner $1.98 per $1,000 assessed property value. If approved, the owner of a $250,000 home will pay $495 a year.

The Island County Auditor’s office mailed out approximately 2,000 ballots last week to military voters. The remaining 30,000 ballots will be mailed to voters next week. Ballots have to be postmarked by Feb. 12 in order to be counted.

Volunteers for the Oak Harbor School District are busy getting the word out about the levy. The group, known as Citizens for Better Schools, is busy visiting homeowners and waving signs at large businesses throughout Oak Harbor.

“Our grassroots effort has been door-belling, storefronts and we’re starting signwaving,” said Lynn Goebel, one of the chairwomen for Citizens for Better Schools.

Volunteers will be waving signs starting Saturday at the corners of Highway 20 and Whidbey Avenue and Highway 20 and Barrington Drive.

Goebel said the campaign has been going well.

“I’ve never seen such community support,” Goebel said.

School officials said the levy proposal will help restore some of the cuts they have made in recent years due to budget reductions.

If approved, $3.2 million will continue to pay for 20 teachers funded by the current levy, plus restore 14 teaching positions of the 34 that have been lost due to budget cuts.

It will also fund an additional 30 minutes to the middle school day while continuing to fund an additional 30 minutes of instruction time for the elementary school.

The levy will provided $700,000 in athletics, music and tutoring.

It will restore the activity bus, after-school tutoring and some assistant coaching positions. The levy will restore middle school athletics, and protect current athletic programs, music and other activities from likely cuts.

The levy also includes $500,000 for student health and safety, $1.65 million for maintenance and custodial services and $2.3 million for textbooks and computers.

The Oak Harbor School Board held a workshop Monday night to discuss the levy’s effect on the district’s special education program.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said that because of input from workshops and meetings with staff and residents, the levy will also include $500,000 for special education students, which could go to fund additional teachers, support staff, materials and supplies.

The Oak Harbor School District currently has 790 special education students from birth to age 21.

Schulte noted during the workshop that state and federal funding for special education doesn’t take into account the severity of a student’s need and most school districts in the state use local level dollars to supplement special education programs.

Some ideas included hiring another psychologist, improving training for current special education staff and providing more training for general education staff who may have special education students in their classrooms.

The Oak Harbor School Board has been holding workshops in recent months to discuss how the levy will affect various parts of the school district.

The South Whidbey School District is running two levy proposals next month.

The first levy is a maintenance and operations levy that comprises nearly $4 million of the South End school district’s $15-million budget.

The second is a capital projects levy that will bring in $6 million for six years. The capital levy will provide $750,000 per year for technology upgrades and $1.25 million to fund upgrades such as repairing roofs, siding, HVAC and more.

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