The ballot drop box at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, 8236 SE 24th St., will be open until 8 p.m. on election day, Feb. 13, as Islanders vote on an educational maintenance and operations levy. File photo

The ballot drop box at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, 8236 SE 24th St., will be open until 8 p.m. on election day, Feb. 13, as Islanders vote on an educational maintenance and operations levy. File photo

Levy committee encourages Islanders to vote to ‘keep schools strong’

The four-year renewal levy would continue local levy funding for Mercer Island schools through 2022.

Next month, Mercer Islanders will vote on an educational maintenance and operations levy that will keep the school district’s budget steady as state-enacted education funding changes go into effect next year.

Ballots will be mailed on Jan. 24 and must be postmarked by Feb. 13. The ballot drop box at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, 8236 SE 24th St., will be open until 8 p.m. on election day.

If approved with a simple majority, the replacement levy would collect between $11.75 million and $12.75 million per year from 2019 to 2022 for educational programs and services beyond the state’s definition of basic education. It will continue to fund 20 percent of the Mercer Island School District general fund, including 38 percent of special education funding.

MISD Superintendent Donna Colosky said that the state of Washington funds schools using a prototypical model based on the number of staff needed. In response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, the state is increasing its share of funding for basic education, and taking more responsibility for teachers’ salaries, by hiking property taxes.

Colosky said that the ruling may have created a “misconception that levies can go away.”

But the current state budget will not pay the full cost of special education or many Mercer Island school programs, including the seven-period day at the high school, music, art, PE and Spanish in the elementary schools, or expanded electives at the high school and middle school, according to a fact sheet from the district.

Under a new law passed by the Legislature this year, use of local levy dollars are limited to enrichments — the programs, activities and staffing beyond the basic state apportionment that are funded through local efforts, which includes the levy, foundation, PTA, and other grants, donations and contributions.

Colosky said that Mercer Island goes “above and beyond” what the state defines as “basic education.” It relies on local funding to do so.

According to the Yes MI Schools campaign run by the Committee for Mercer Island Public Schools (CMIPS), the aggregate funding level per Island student is $10,451, which is about average compared to other districts in the state (143rd out of 295 districts). Local funding is critical, as Mercer Island receives $5,814 per student from the state (282 out of 295).

Islanders have been supportive of levies; none have failed in recent history, according to the committee. The levy on the ballot this year replaces one that passed in 2014 with about 77 percent of the vote. It is not a new tax.

The levy collects $1 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the actual amount collected from residents is based on the number of students enrolled and the amount, per student, allowed by the state. Currently, MISD is allowed to collect $2,500 per student.

With local funds, the district has also been able to provide smaller class sizes for focused sections for struggling students or in specific areas; ongoing professional development opportunities for staff; stipends for staff to offer additional opportunities for students, including after-school clubs and activities at all grade levels; enhanced library collections; online learning programs; and paraprofessional support in classrooms with overloads, additional special education students or English Language Learners, as well as student supervision and safety.

For more information on the levy, contact Ty Bergstrom, executive director of finance, at tyrell.bergstrom@mercerislandschools.org, or go to yesmischools.org.

[flipp]

More in News

Homelessness authority approved by King County, awaits Seattle vote

The agreement would consolidate emergency services for people experiencing homelessness.

The King County Courthouse is located at 516 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Council approves $600,000 to increase security at King County Courthouse

The funding will be split evenly between increasing deputies, security and social services.

Victims, law enforcement speak about King County Courthouse conditions

An entrance to the courthouse was closed after an assault.

In this September 2019 photo, George Kirkish, owner and founder of Palouse Winery on Vashon-Maury Island, pours a glass of wine for Lori Coots during tasting room hours. (Kevin Opsahl/Sound Publishing)
King County Council approves controversial winery, brewery ordinance

After five years, the county has updated regulations surrounding alcohol production and tasting.

Courtesy photo 
                                Mercer Island Rotary Club members Bruce McAuley and Karolyn Streck volunteering as bell ringers for the Salvation Army.
Rotarians ring the bells

Find them collecting for Salvation Army Dec. 14 on Mercer Island.

The Aubrey Davis Park sign on a sunny fall day. Natalie DeFord / staff photo
Council adopts Aubrey Davis Park Master Plan

Vision for Mercer Island park’s future moves forward.

Rosenbaum wins by 40 votes in election recount

Mercer Island City Council Pos. 1 results certified Dec. 6.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

City continues climate commitment

Mercer Island council adopts K4C update.

Most Read