Voters from Burbank to Benton City were approving school funding measures Tuesday night.
Property tax levies in Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, Prosser, Burbank, Benton City, Finley, Kahlotus, North Franklin and Washtucna all were passing by comfortable margins after the first round of returns.
More ballots still are left to be counted, with the next update expected Wednesday.
The election results won’t be official until certification on Feb. 23.
Still, school officials across the Mid-Columbia were celebrating Tuesday.
“We did a bunch of high-fives,” said Kevin Veleke, chairman of the citizens committee that worked to pass Kennewick’s levy.
In Richland, “we are thrilled,” Superintendent Rick Schulte said.
Levies bridge the gap between government money for education and what it actually costs school districts to operate. They make up a significant part of school districts’ annual budgets.
Because of major change in the state education funding system, Tri-Citians will pay less through the local levies starting next year. The state is capping local school levy rates at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which is much lower than current levy rates in many local districts.
Here’s a closer look at local levy election results.
Pasco School District
Pasco’s four-year levy was passing Tuesday with 4,593 votes, or 59 percent. Levies require at least 50 percent approval to pass.
“We’re extremely grateful to the community of Pasco for approving the district’s Educational Programs and Operations levy, and making this commitment to support our students,” Superintendent Michelle Whitney said in a statement.
“Levy and levy equalization funds represent about 18.6 percent of the district’s budget, and these funds benefit every student, every day. With this levy approval and the approval of the bond in November, it is inspiring to see our community’s steadfast support for education,” Whitney said.
The levy win comes after controversy over an election mailer sent out by a citizens committee working to promote the levy.
The mailer was part of a voter turnout research project, although Pasco Citizens for Better Schools — the group that sent it out — declined to elaborate before the election. The mailer included a voter report card — some with just the voting record of the recipient, others with the voting records of neighbors as well. All that is public information, but it still left some raising privacy concerns.
Kennewick School District
Kennewick voters were approving that district’s four-year levy with 8,606 votes, or 64 percent.
The district also proposed a separate technology levy, at about 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. It also was passing, with 8,517 votes, or 64 percent.
“We are so thankful once again to the citizens of Kennewick for their faithful support of our community’s children,” Superintendent Dave Bond said in a statement. “Since 1969, Kennewick voters have continuously passed levies and we are grateful for their support.”
Richland School District
In Richland, the four-year levy was passing with 8,196 votes, or 68 percent.
“This is really a tribute to our community — a community that values good schools and informed itself so it understood the issues on the ballot after the legislature made some changes,” Schulte said. “We’re really happy they continued their long history of great support of schools, kids, teachers and education for our community.”
Like Kennewick, Richland also proposed a four-year technology levy. It was passing with 7,977 votes, or 66 percent.
Other area districts
Along with the three Tri-City districts, Prosser and Columbia-Burbank also proposed four-year levies — and both were passing Tuesday night.
Prosser’s levy had 1,271 yes votes, or 68 percent. Burbank’s had 447 yes votes, or 65 percent.
Burbank’s four-year technology levy also was getting the OK from voters, with 457 yes votes, or 67 percent.
Kiona-Benton City, Finley, Kahlotus, North Franklin and Washtucna proposed two-year levies, which were triumphing at the ballot box.