Kent School Board president reacts to failing levy measures

Vengadasalam remains hopeful for passage but lists several reasons for possible no votes

Maya Vengadasalam, Kent School Board president, offered the following comments in response to voters apparently turning down the two school district propositions on Tuesday’s special election ballot.

“My initial reaction is to remain hopeful as many in our community (educators, businesses and community leaders) worked hard to have conversations about the budget and levy – and to be more transparent with the community,” she said in an email Wednesday to the Kent Reporter. “While I was out of the country on a personal matter for about a month and a half, I am truly grateful to all who stepped up to serve our students in the name of equity.”

Kent School District voters were narrowly rejecting Tuesday night both ballot propositions to replace expiring levies.

Proposition No. 1 (Replacement of Expiring Educational Programs and Operations Levy) had 51.14 percent no (10,086 votes) to 48.86 percent yes (9,637 votes. Proposition No. 2 (Technology and Capital Levy) had 51.61 percent no (9,445 votes) to 48.39 percent yes (8,855 votes), according to special election results released Tuesday night by King County Elections.

King County Elections will update counts each weekday until the election is certified Feb. 23.

Vengadasalam was uncertain about whether she expected the measures to struggle to get voter approval.

“Too soon to say I’m surprised. I would like to wait until this (Wednesday) evening to see the results,” she said. “As we know historically, KSD (Kent School District) has a lot of late voters. In my own election four years ago, I was ahead only by 40 votes on election night.”

The board president said there are a number of reasons people voted no.

“We have a lot of people on fixed income who are genuinely concerned about property tax increases,” she said. “Unfortunately, this state does not have other forms of tax streams to fund education. I believe the media has played a huge part in speaking about the rise in property taxes without much explanation on what will happen to rural areas and part of South King County like Kent, where property taxes will actually go down next year (though this year will see an increase).

“Further, KSD voters approved our bond (in 2016) but still had questions about the capital improvement levy and how that would differ from the bond. The needed clarification coupled with our budget woes contributed to the no votes, in my opinion. While I was out of the country for (six weeks) on a personal matter, staff and community members tried to have conversations on the above, but it may have started too late.”

If the levies go down, the board will soon announce its next steps, which could include sending the measures back to voters.

“We have planned accordingly for every possible result,” she said.

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