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"School levy fails, transit passes"

"Oak Harbor-area voters Tuesday continued a 30-year tradition of rejecting maintenance and operation levies for the Oak Harbor School District.As vote counting shut down late Tuesday night, the $2.6 million levy was falling short of a simple majority, much less the 60 percent approval needed for passage. With all precincts accounted for and only a handful of absentee votes left to count, the levy stood at 3,259 yes votes to 3,285 no.Meanwhile, voters countywide said yes to Island Transit's request for a sales tax increase that would keep the county's bus system fare-free.With all but late absentee votes counted Tuesday night, the Transit proposal was passing with 57 percent of the vote, 9,153 yes votes to 6,829 no. The measure needed only a simple majority in order to pass.The vote will add 30 cents in sales tax to a $100 purchase. That means Island Transit can maintain much of its existing service and bring back north/south highway service on Saturdays. The school levy fell behind in early counting and never recovered. This is the 14th time in the last 32 years that voters have failed to produce a win for the district. The vote means the owner of a $150,000 home in the district will be able to hang on to about $220 a year that the $1.47 per $1,000 property tax levy would have cost. With the tax-cutting Initiative 695 still fresh in everyone's mind, the levy vote indicates that requests for tax increases are still unpopular.For the Oak Harbor district, the loss means it will continue to rank last in the state in terms of the number of dollars spent per student. It will also be the only large-size school district in the state not offering a hot lunch program.The loss will likely also be a blow to members of the Citizens for Better Schools Committee, who have been working toward passage of a levy for about a year. They gathered support from state and congressional leaders, county commissioners, the Oak Harbor City Council, mayor and Chamber of Commerce. But in the end, widespread voter support never materialized.Fearing voter revolt against higher taxes, levy supporters were displeased when Island Transit officials decided in April to add their sales-tax-increase request to the same May ballot. Levy backers will now have to decide if they want to put the same levy or a new proposal before voters again in the fall. "

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