Centralia school board making plans after rare levy failure

  • Sat Feb 15th, 2020 1:45pm
  • News

By Celene Fitzgerald

The Chronicle

Additional votes have been tallied since Tuesday’s special election, but it won’t be enough to change the outcome for Centralia School District’s replacement levy.

As of Friday afternoon, 69.02 percent of voters cast ballots against the 2020 replacement levy, or 3,574 out of 5,178 votes cast.

The levy request had a 34.5 percent turnout for eligible district voters, according to the Lewis County Auditor’s Office

Heather Boyer, election supervisor at the Lewis County Auditor’s Office said that they will not be making another count before certification day, Feb. 21, unless there are at least 500 ballots to count. However, Boyer said it is highly unlikely that there will be another count before certification because there are only 35 ballots left to count county-wide — not enough to have a result-changing effect on the levy election before certification.

“Of course we were disappointed that it didn’t pass,” said Lori Fast, President of the School Board of Directors. “The funding system for public schools in the state of Washington has been kind of a mess. There were obviously a lot of different reasons why people chose to vote ‘No’ and so we are trying to listen to learn what we can from that. Moving forward we are planning on-going conversations about what our options are.”

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal commented on the situation while speaking with members of the media Thursday at the state Capitol.

“The neighbor next to them, Chehalis School District, passed their levy at 53 or 54 percent so we’ve got a Lewis County situation of two dramatically different school cultures right now,” he said.

Chehalis also ran a replacement levy request asking for $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the highest allowed by the state.

“Statewide on Tuesday night 90 percent of operating levies passed … there was nothing different in the pattern than the past several decades. Really high passage rate. Centralia definitely struggled a lot,” Reykdal said.

Fast said the school board will have to make decisions about the district’s budget.

“Something that we heard is that we aren’t transparent enough with our communication so we want to learn the specifics of those concerns and how we can do better,” Fast said.

Fast said that the school board has planned a public forum for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Fords Prairie Elementary School, where they hope the community will come and share their thoughts and ideas about what they feel is important concerning the levy.

If the district wants to put the levy on the next ballot they will have to decide by the end of the month in order to file for the election in time.

In order to have the levy put on the ballot for the next special election on April 28, the district must file their resolution with the Lewis County Election office by Feb. 28, after the resolution is approved by the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.

According to Boyer, since it is not looking likely that any other school in the county will have a levy or bond on the ballot in April, the Centralia School District would be responsible for the entire cost of the election, up to $25,000 — which was split between all districts in the county for the February election.

Fast said the board is working on a plan to make sure citizens have all of the correct information and understand what goes into creating a budget.

“I know there was a lot of information out there and it was confusing and we are working on what we need to do to clarify that and make it easier for people to understand what goes into all of those decisions and how we make a budget,” said Fast.

Centralia School Board member Mandi McDougall shared her thoughts on the outcome of the levy.

“I’m disappointed by the way the vote went. I think as a Centralia graduate, community member and school board member it’s very hard to see our community not support our students and our district and we are working on a comprehensive plan moving forward,” McDougall said.

Any citizens with questions or concerns about the levy and district funding are encouraged by the school board to attend the upcoming levy forum.

“We’re formulating our plans now and we are going to have to make some decisions as a board regarding our budget,” said Fast.