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Levy campaign launched
"Ooooo baby, here I am - signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours.With a tape of Stevie Wonder providing inspiration, a group of about 180 parents, school staff members, government officials and kids got themselves revved up during a school levy rally Tuesday night.I have absolute confidence that this levy is going to pass and we'll move into the 21st century with Oak Harbor taking care of its children, parent Lynn Goebel told the eager crowd gathered in the Hillcrest Elementary School gym. Goebel has become part-general, part cheerleader for the levy campaign, and remains undeterred by Oak Harbor's record of passing none of the 13 maintenance and operations school levies proposed during the last 30 years.History is meant to be changed, she urged the crowd.The energy in the room Tuesday night suggested she may be right. Lots of lively chatter, bright yellow balloons, levy-supporter buttons and about $2,400 in donations set a strong, positive tone for the start of the campaign. By the end of the meeting, 112 people had signed up to be campaign captains.The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce issued a letter backing the levy and several elected officials offered their support. Oak Harbor City Council members Danny Paggao and Sheilah Crider were there, as was State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, Republican Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell and McDowell's 2nd District opponent in the November election, Democrat Lynne Wilcox.They're off to a real good start, said MacDowell. I think they have a good shot.McDowell said that much of the problem with passing school levies in Oak Harbor dates from the days when the federal government used to kick in up to 24 percent of the district's annual school budget. In recent years that number has dwindled to as little as 5 percent, even though the military presence here has remained strong.It worked 30 years ago ... but those dollars are no longer there, said McDowell. The May 16 levy ballot will ask voters to approve $1.47 per $1,000 hike in property taxes inside the school district boundaries. That equates to about $220 per year on a $150,000 home.If passed, the district plans to use the $2.6 million collected locally and $1.1 million in state matching money for a long list of needs, such as 30 new teachers, 30 new instructional assistants, a hot lunch program, summer school and a larger special education staff.None of the money will go to increasing salaries, local teachers' union president Mark Brown said.No teacher is going to get more in their paycheck because of this levy, he stressed at the rally. Brown said he recently found out there there are 40 unregistered voters among his own union membership. He said a letter to those members will encourage them to register and vote May 16. Brown pointed out that a recent school levy in South Whidbey failed to gain the needed 60 percent super-majority by only a handful of votes. The magic number for Oak Harbor this time around will be 3,000 yes votes, said Goebel. That will provide 60 percent approval and legal validation. To validate an election, 40 percent of the voters in the last general election must cast a ballot.Kathy Chalfant, from the levy organizing group Citizens for Better Schools, said that at the 3,000 magic number, just 30 votes represents a full percentage point.It's the difference between 59 percent and 60 percent, she said."