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Mount Vernon School District’s failing safety, technology levy heads back to ballot

District makes reductions in scope, lowers tax rate in effort to pass levy

The Old Main building at Mount Vernon High School sits on the west side of the school's campus. The Mount Vernon School District technology levy is likely to fail. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

Mount Vernon School District is going back to voters following the likely failure of the safety and technology levy from the February special election.

Voters in the district will find an updated resolution on their April 23 ballot: The district is going back to a tax rate voters had previously approved three years ago — 95 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, reducing the district’s anticipated revenue by about $2.5 million a year. 

There’s a slight chance the original levy could still pull through: it’s currently failing by 32 votes, with roughly 50 ballots left to count. The final ballots will be counted, and the election will be certified on Friday, Feb. 23. But Friday is also the deadline to submit a resolution for the April ballot — if the original levy ends up pulling through, the second attempt will be null and void, school board president Larry Otos said at a Wednesday, Feb. 21 work study meeting. 

“There’s still a little bit of hope, but I’m not counting on it,” Otos said at the meeting. 

The currently failing levy rate would have started at $1.27 per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2025 and decreased every year until a rate of 91 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2028. The new levy rate would start at 95.7 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2025, and decrease to 68.1 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value in 2028. 

Tim Papendorf, the district’s information services supervisor, said cuts to the levy include some audio, visual and technology replacements. The levy also assumes a more conservative estimate of cost increases over the four years and removes some staff from being funded through the levy.

Most of those staff members’ salaries will be covered by other funds, Papendorf said, but some grant-dependent security positions might be cut if grants from the state don’t come through. Superintendent Ismael Vivanco said they haven’t heard yet from the state on their congressional request. 

Papendorf said at a Tuesday, Feb. 20 work meeting that despite the cuts, the new proposed levy is still an increase in funding from what they had access to through the previous levy. It will still allow them to expand technology access and expand safety and security measures, he said. 

Promotion of the new levy will begin soon, district staff said. Vivanco said they’re going to make up a new PowerPoint presentation on the levy and host community events, and Papendorf said they plan to highlight what specific schools in the district will be getting from the levy. 


If this new levy doesn’t pass, Executive Director of Finance Jennifer Larson said in a Feb. 21 email that there will be a “painful discussion” about what technology, safety and security costs get eliminated. 

Larson said on Tuesday there are a lot of expenditures funded through the levy that the district could not do without, such as staff, curriculum licensing and devices for students. 

“We would have to shift those expenditures into our general fund, which would create additional reductions you would have to do to make room for them,” she said. 

Charlotte Alden is CDN’s general assignment/enterprise reporter; reach her at charlottealden@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 123.

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