Special election results: Yelm's education levy fails by slim margin


Official results for the April 23 Thurston County special election show the Yelm Community Schools educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy proposition improving from its Feb. 13 special election numbers but still failing by a narrow margin.

As of 4:31 p.m., Thursday, May 2, 3,054 voters, or 49.51%,  were in favor of the levy while 3,115 voters, or 50.49%, opposed. In Pierce County, 501 voters, or 42.97%, were in favor of the proposition, but 665 voters, or 57.03%, opposed. 

According to Thurston County Elections, 32.42% of issued ballots were received as of Thursday, May 2. The district cannot attempt to pass another levy until February 2025.

In total, as of Thursday, 3,555 voters, or 48.47% across the two counties chose to approve the proposition while 3,780 voters, or 51.53%, opted to oppose.

The four-year replacement levy, which would have taken effect in January 2025 if approved, would have provided funding for the district to pay for programs such as athletics, activities, mental health services, and special education, as well as staffing.

YCS' first attempt at approving the EP&O levy failed in the Feb. 13 special election, with 2,779 voters, or 52.96%, opposed to the proposition while 2,468, or 47.04% supported replacing the levy. The school board voted to place the proposition back on the ballot in April with a lower tax rate of $2.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, compared to the originally proposed $2.50 per $1,000. 

The EP&O proposition is not a new levy, but it would have replaced the current levy that expires at the end of December. The funding it would've collected makes up nearly 13% of the district’s budget. According to district information, 50 cents of every dollar collected would've gone toward teaching and learning, while 25 cents would've funded support services; 15 cents to fund operations; and 10 cents of every dollar would've supported athletics and activities. 

The district has already begun to make cuts to its staff, particularly assistant coaches for athletics and activities, to prepare for another possible levy failure and as it faces the task of balancing its budget. YCS projected earlier in the month that it would finish the 2023-24 school year with a fund balance of $3.3 million, $1.6 million short of its projected balance of $4.9 million from its adopted balance in August. The approved budget already included a deficit of $1.2 million less than the district's minimum fund balance policy.