Centralia’s two-year replacement levy looks closer to passing after last-minute ballots counted Wednesday tilted the measure to 50.62% approval.
The measure is leading by 69 votes — a larger margin than it was failing by on election night when it was behind by 23 votes. It will need to keep a 50% majority, plus one vote, in order to pass.
School board members and staff were ecstatic about the 92-vote swing and voiced excitement during an in-person meeting held Wednesday evening. Two prior attempts in the last 14 months at passing a replacement levy have faltered, but the district has responded twice by lowering its proposed levy amount.
The Lewis County Auditor’s Office says the next ballot count will be posted Thursday, May 6, and the election is set to be certified the next day.
“This really is about our students, our community, our future,” Superintendent Dr. Lisa Grant told the board. “These funds will help us serve our students and I know, from my perspective as the superintendent, as well as the board, we want to be accountable for this. We want to be accountable both to the use of our funds (and) the impact of these funds on our students and their success.”
Grant thanked the community for their support, including the Centralia Community Foundation and Citizens for Centralia Schools, as well as any individuals who helped spread the word about the measure.
“I am grateful to the citizens of Centralia who supported it. I was really concerned, and so I’m excited that we’re moving forward with that now,” board member Vickie Jackson said.
Speaking with The Chronicle after the meeting, Grant said the Lewis County Auditor’s Office confirmed to her that Wednesday’s updated count came from day-of voters who either had their ballots postmarked or dropped them in county-certified drop boxes on election day.
On election night, Grant said supporters were holding out hope they’d make up ground similar to last August’s failed election, when the gap narrowed closer to passage but didn’t quite overcome opponents. That hope, so far at least, seems to have paid off, and they’re feeling more assured that the levy has passed.
“It’s a big step forward for us,” Grant said.
If passed, Centralia’s levy will collect $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value starting in 2022. In total, the school district will collect $9.1 million over the 2022 and 2023 collection years.
The district has been operating without replacement levy dollars since December 2020, and layoffs were announced last summer.
The levy is expected to fund services such as support staff, counselors, athletics, technology, special education and other programs.
So far, 5,541 ballots have been counted in the election, with 2,805 in favor of the measure and 2,736 against it.
Ballots were only sent to registered voters living in the Centralia School District boundaries. Turnout is currently at 37.40% of registered voters.
The district boundary includes less than 300 voters living in Thurston County. County-specific election results were published election night but have since been removed from both county auditor’s websites.
At least 110 ballots have been received from Thurston County and 5,494 from Lewis County, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
“We have long-term work to connect with them better,” Grant said of voters in Thurston County, who she says will sometimes opt for south-county districts instead of Centralia’s.
In February 2020, voters denied a levy rate of $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value with a 69% no vote. Then, in August, voters rejected another measure, this time for $2.00 per $1,000 assessed with 50.38% of voters against it.