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.

More in News

Sound Publishing file photo
King County approves gun warning sign requirement

Warning signs must be posted in all King County gun stores and firing ranges.

The Council recognized the AFIS program as it celebrates 30 years of assisting law enforcement throughout King County. Councilmembers, AFIS staff and King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht join AFIS regional manager, Carol Gillespie. Photo courtesy of King County.
King County Council recognizes county’s Automated Fingerprint Information System (AFIS)

For three decades, AFIS has helped law enforcement solve thousands of cases.

The team that advocated for I-1631 at downtown Seattle’s Arctic Club on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Washington rejects carbon fee

I-1631 campaign organizers say they will continue pushing for a cleaner future.

UPDATED: Voters rejecting Mercer Island’s Proposition 1

The levy lid lift would continue funding police, fire, parks, safety net services at current levels.

The race for Washington’s 9th Congressional District is between two Democrats, incumbent Adam Smith (left) and political newcomer Sarah Smith. File photo
Congressman Adam Smith leads re-election bid for WA’s 9th District

The district spans from Bellevue and south Seattle down through Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Federal Way and Tacoma

City names finalists in RFQ process for Tully’s site

Mainstreet Property Group LLC and Shelter Holding/Weinstein A+U had the preferred proposals.

Mercer Island seeks community input as bike share pilot wraps up

A survey is available to help the city assess the feedback of riders and residents.

Officer Todd Roggenkamp shows off his ‘stache in support of the Movember awareness campaign. Photo courtesy of Todd Roggenkamp
MIPD grows ‘staches, raises funds for Movember

The Island’s police department has set up a charity fundraising page for participating officers.

City of Mercer Island shares fall recycling event statistics

The event was successful despite the mixed forecast.

Members of the King County Council join retiring executive director of ARCH Arthur Sullivan after the council recognized Sullivan as a voice for affordable housing in East King County. Photo courtesy of King County.
King County Council recognizes ARCH’S Arthur Sullivan

Executive director of A Regional Coalition for Housing retires after three decades.

Inside the lobby at the Google office in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Runner1928
Kirkland employees protest sexual misconduct in Google walkout

Google’s Kirkland campus took part in the worldwide protest of sexual misconduct within the company.