Mid-Columbia voters showed their love for schools and their students Tuesday by approving a slew of maintenance and operations levies.
Most of the levies on the ballot were passing by 60 percent or more in preliminary results.
The measures require 50 percent voter approval, but in a handful of districts -- Richland, Prosser, Paterson, Kahlotus -- the approval rates were reaching 70 percent or higher.
"It's pretty overwhelming to see this level of support despite the economy," said Richland Superintendent Jim Busey.
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The district's two-year levy handily passed with 71 percent approval. The levy will collect $19.7 million in 2013 and $20.9 million in 2014.
School officials and supporters acknowledged the state of the economy provided some concern that voters would not show the same support for the levies as in the past.
"We're feeling very good tonight about the support from our community," said Dave Bond, Kennewick School District superintendent.
In Kennewick, the two-year replacement levy was passing with 66 percent of the vote. Kennewick levies total $22 million in 2013 and $23.4 million in 2014.
None of the levies represents a new tax, and all are replacing levies that will expire at the end of 2012.
School districts rely upon the operations levies to cover basic school needs, such as teacher salaries and maintenance, as well as co-curricular activities such as athletics and the arts.
The levies have become increasingly important as the state has cut funding to K-12 education, officials say.
Ray Tolcacher, superintendent of the Prosser School District, said residents understand the state is not providing the money needed to pay for education. The Prosser levy passed with 73 percent approval.
Residents in Prosser previously rejected two bond measures to build a new high school in the district, but Tolcacher said the success of the levy does not mean they are ready for another bond measure attempt.
"A bond would be a completely different issue," he said.
In Kennewick, levy dollars make up more than 20 percent of the district's annual budget, while in the Richland School District, levy funds make up 17 percent of the budget.
More than half the money the Pasco School District gets from its operations levy goes to classroom expenses, such as teachers, library books and curriculum costs. Pasco's levy was passing with 60 percent approval.
Mike Miller, chairman of the Pasco Citizens for Better Schools committee, said citizens and school officials worked hard to make sure residents knew about the levy and how important it was for their children.
"We've got a great school district that continues to do a great job," he said.
Pasco's levy will collect $20.1 million in 2013 and $20.3 million in 2014.
Most of the area's smaller school districts also were seeing strong support of their levy renewals. Kiona-Benton City showed the tightest margin, with 52 percent approval.
Election results won't be final until Feb. 28. Election officials will continue to count votes as mail-in ballots arrive.
Mid-Columbia voters approve levies
Richland: 71 percent yes, 29 percent no
Kennewick: 66 percent yes, 34 percent no
Kiona-Benton City: 52 percent yes, 48 percent no
Finley: 64 percent yes, 36 percent no
Prosser: 73 percent yes, 27 percent no
Paterson: 76 percent yes, 24 percent no
Pasco: 60 percent yes, 40 percent no
North Franklin: 67 percent yes, 33 percent no
Kahlotus: 77 percent yes, 23 percent no
Dayton: 58 percent yes, 52 percent no
Dayton technology levy: 54 percent yes, 46 percent no
Walla Walla County
Walla Walla: 64 percent yes, 36 percent no
Waitsburg: 66 percent yes, 34 percent no
Prescott: 68 percent yes, 32 percent no
Wahluke: 58 percent yes, 42 percent no
Warden: 58 percent yes, 42 percent no
Warden bond/capital levy: 51 percent yes, 49 percent no
Royal: 62 percent yes, 38 percent no
Moses Lake: 56 percent yes, 44 percent no
Moses Lake school bond: 50 percent yes. Measure failing.*
Sunnyside: 69 percent yes, 31 percent no
Mabton: 65 percent yes, 36 percent no
Othello:59 percent yes, 41 percent noWashtucna: 74 percent yes, 26 percent no * Needs 60 percent approval to pass.