Oak Harbor schools levy passing in first vote counts

Voters approved the levy with 53.74% voting yes, while 46.26% voted no, according to initial counts.

The majority of voters supported Oak Harbor Public Schools $48.4 million levy, according to ballot counts as of Thursday afternoon.

Voters approved the levy with 55 percent voting yes, while 45 percent voted no.

There are an estimated 25 ballots left to count. The next election update will be at 1 p.m. on Feb. 19. Voter turnout was almost 40 percent.

Levies need a simple majority to pass in Washington state.

The estimated tax rate will be $2.28 per $1,000 assessed property value and will be collected from 2022-2025. It was the same rate taxpayers paid this year because increased property values decreased the levy rate from $2.55 to $2.28 in 2020.

The school district sets a total amount of funds it wishes to collect and estimates the tax rate, so it can fluctuate from year to year.

Levies pay for athletics, arts, advanced classes and other programs that state education funding does not cover.

Local funds also pay for paraeducators, mental health counselors and the overwhelming majority of the school district’s nurses.

The school district also receives some federal funding because it cannot collect property taxes on federally owned property in the area.

Superintendent Lance Gibbon and John Diamond, president of the Oak Harbor school board, responded to the levy’s approval in an emailed joint statement.

“We know this has been an incredibly hard time for our staff, families and community and we are very grateful for this investment in our students’ future,” the email said.

“We know this pandemic has taken a toll on everyone — especially our students. This levy assures that we can begin the process to heal, restore and rebuild all that our students have lost.

“This is a vote of confidence from our community in the great work our schools have done, are doing and will do for our students in the years to come.”

Although the majority of voters approved the levy, there were some people in the community who rejected it.

Two parents read a community letter during the Monday school board meeting the night before the election.

The letter criticized the school district’s COVID-19 restrictions and alleged it was indoctrinating students, in addition to saying the authors did not support the levy.

“We cannot support a school levy that does not support our children and their education,” the letter said.

Jessica Thompson was one of the authors of the letter and read it to the school board. Her husband, Brandon, also read part of the letter and signed it. There were more than 70 signatures, she said.

The election will be certified on Feb. 19.