WENATCHEE — Turnout in the last presidential election was huge across the country — including in the Wenatchee area. That fact is working against the upcoming Wenatchee School District Educational Program and Operation Levy.
In order for the election to count, it must get 40% of the vote turnout from the last general election. In this instance that would be the last presidential election.
“We had a huge turnout. There are 28,000 registered voters within our boundaries. Over 24,000 people voted in the last election. We have to hit right below that 10,000 number,” said Superintendent Paul Gordon at the Jan. 12 Wenatchee School Board meeting. "We need people to go out and vote.”
Ballots for the levy will be mailed Jan. 22. The levy election is Feb. 9. The levy needs a simple majority to pass.
“The levy vote is serious, so talk to your colleagues and friends about how important it is. Tell them to be alert for the ballots and remember to exercise their vote,” said Board member Martin Barron.
The levy would raise roughly $12 million to $13 million over four years at a rate of $2.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Passage of the levy assures about $3 million in State Equalization funds each year for a total of $15 million annually over four years.
The levy increases about 3% each year, but Gordon emphasized that the projected rate ($2.10) stays the same over those four years. It is a replacement levy and its rate is the same as the levy it would replace.
The owner of a home with an assessed property value of around $400,000 would pay about $840 per year.
“Many community members have asked this question: What happened to the dollars during the pandemic? Some community members feel like we’ve been shut down and work hasn’t been occurring,” Gordon said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Gordon said educators have reimagined what schools look like. Custodians have been working around the clock to make sure facilities are safe for students and staff.
"We’ve spent significant dollars on PPE to make sure we had the right protective equipment when we are around each other and ensuring we continue to have all the right cleaning supplies,” he said. “There is no way possible we would have been able to move into online learning without the significant dollars to pay for all the laptops.”
Roughly 350 students have left the school district to homeschool, and the reduction in enrolled students, Gordon said, has been a significant hit to the finances. He does anticipate those students returning, but those dollars will not be captured in this budget cycle.
What happens if the levy does not pass?
“It’s pretty clear. We reduce $15 million from our budget. We reduce stang. We reduce supplies and programs,” Gordon said. “The district will try to rerun another ballot. If we fail twice, we would have to wait a year. The consequences of this are very significant. These dollars really do impact our kids.”