Pair of Mercer Island School District levy renewals are passing after early results

Needing a simple majority to pass, a pair of Mercer Island School District levy renewals were on the right track when King County Elections (KCE) posted the initial results of the special election on the evening of Feb. 8.

The two items on the ballot for Islanders are the Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy (Proposition No. 1) and Replacement Capital Projects and Technology Levy (Proposition No. 2).

After the fourth round of results, Prop. 1 garnered 73.63% in favor, while Prop. 2 amassed 72.09% in favor. KCE counted 7,536 ballots at post time.

“We are thankful that our community values our students and their education. The passing of these levy renewals supports vital funding for the school district and it is exciting to see that the majority of voters understand how critical this investment is for our students’ future,” said Elizabeth Evans, Mercer Island PTA Council president.

According to the Mercer Island School District, residents haven’t rejected any levies or renewals in the past, but they rejected a bond to make building improvements in 2012.

The KCE website notes that passage of the four-year Educational Programs and Operations Levy would replace an expiring levy and allow the levy of $12 million in property taxes for the school district to collect each year from 2023-2026. The district’s general expenses would include special education, nurses, safety and security, employee costs (including salaries and the seven-period day), technology systems operation, transportation costs, maintenance of facilities and more.

In approving the six-year Capital Projects & Technology Levy, KCE noted that would also replace an expiring levy and raises a range of $7.7 million to $8.4 million in property taxes within the school district for collection each year from 2023-2028.

“Without your yes vote, we stand to lose: 17% of the school district budget, school nurses at all of our schools, critical science, math, art, music and other programs, and much-needed updates to facilities and technology, and more…” reads a Mercer Island PTA Council mailer, adding that all Island schools PTAs have endorsed the levy renewals.

Citizens for Mercer Island Public Schools (CMIPS) members said on the KCE site that more than 70% of Mercer Island voters supported previous levies, and that 99% of school districts pass similar levies. Mercer Island has 18,657 registered voters, according to the KCE site.

Kathy McDonald of CMIPS said her committee was pleased to witness the percentages soar on election night and expects the numbers to rise as more votes are tallied.

“I think that it just shows there’s a continued great support for our students and our schools on Mercer Island despite it being a tough time out there with coronavirus and enrollment decline and superintendent switches,” said McDonald, noting that the Island’s positive results were second only to the Seattle School District, which garnered 79.02% and 78.83% for its two renewal levy propositions during the fourth stage of results.

Strong communication while educating voters about the levies were paramount aspects of the CMIPS campaign, which the 25 members began quietly in November of 2021 with some fundraising and unveiled it to the public in January.

The grassroots group, which features members from all across the Island, utilized the Zoom platform to discuss the levies during copious public presentations. They aimed to combat misinformation about the levies, stating that they were not property tax increases or new taxes, but renewals, McDonald said.

“I feel like it was a win. It was a very positive campaign. We focused on what the levies support,” said McDonald, adding that they ran a fact-based campaign that included a 90-second video, direct mailings, signage and immense personal outreach.

In a video posted on the Mercer Island School District Facebook page, Superintendent Donna Colosky and School Board President Maggie Tai Tucker thanked the community for supporting public education with strong approval of the levy renewals at the ballot box.

“Your votes are a gesture of trust that the district will continue to improve our programs, plans, facilities and operations to give Mercer Island students the best education that we possibly can,” Tucker said, in part.

Final reconciliation reports will be posted by 4 p.m. on Feb. 18 and final precinct level results will be posted by 4 p.m. on Feb. 22.