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Originally published July 6, 2010 at 8:00 PM | Page modified July 6, 2010 at 8:25 PM

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Washington school districts going to voters again

Some Washington voters will be asked to consider new school levies on either the August or November ballots.

Some Washington voters will be asked to consider new school levies on either the August or November ballots.

Earlier this year, the Legislature gave school districts the authority to ask for more local tax dollars. Some, like Seattle Public Schools, say they have no choice but to go back to the voters to ask for more money.

The policy director for the state's largest school district told KPLU radio the district needs the $48 million it will ask voters for in November because the state isn't supporting education the way it should.

In February, Seattle voters approved two school levies — a $442.7 million operations levy and a $270 million, six-year capital levy.

Everett, Edmonds, Northshore and Marysville will have levies on the August ballot. Other districts, like Bellevue and Tacoma, say they aren't planning an extra levy because they're unsure how the voters might respond.

Across the state in February, 165 school districts asked voters to approve a total $4.6 billion in maintenance and operation levies, and nearly every one passed.

In Olympia, where voters previously approved higher taxing authority than the state generally allows, the school district was able to quickly patch some budget holes when the Legislature passed the new levy law earlier this year.

"We were looking at layoffs a year ago. We're not looking at any layoffs for 2010-11, and in part it's because of that change to state law," said district spokesman Peter Rex.

The new levy law offers a mixed bag for education advocates. It continues the pattern of using local taxes to pay for Olympia's shortcomings, said Lisa Macfarlane with the statewide League of Education Voters. But, she added, districts don't have a lot of choices, with federal stimulus dollars going away.

"That's why districts, like Seattle, are having to grab this lifeline," she said.

Districts planning on a November levy will find themselves on a ballot already crowded with tax measures. And in some cases, voters who approved a levy in February will be asked to dip into their pockets again.

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