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Decision day for EMS, school levies; polls close at 8 p.m., check here for results
Today is Election Day and those who have not put their ballots into drop boxes must do so by 8 p.m. today.
Drop boxes are located in front of the county courthouse in Friday Harbor, the Senior Center on Orcas Island and the fire station on Lopez Island. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by today.
A total of 11,154 ballots have been mailed to voters countywide. As of Tuesday afternoon, 5,339 ballots had been returned countywide.
Two levies are on the ballot on San Juan Island.
— San Juan County Hospital District No. 1: Proposition No. 1, Emergency Medical Services Levy.
The measure asks voters to extend the EMS levy for six years. The levy is 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, or $105 a year for a home worth $300,000.
— San Juan Island School District No. 149: Proposition No. 1, School Support Replacement Levy.
The measure asks voters to extend the school district’s maintenance and operations levy for four years. The levy is 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, or $174 a year for a home worth $300,000.
The maintenance and operations, or M&O, levy supplies almost 20 percent of the school district budget. The state provides each school district with money for basic education, but those funds are not enough to fully fund all district programs.
Without this funding, the school district would have to make almost $2 million in cuts. Superintendent Walt Wegener said that to lose that amount of funding from the budget would be “too devastating to get a good grip on.”
School district M&O levy supporters have been spreading the word that the levy is an existing levy. A bond levy approved in 1997 expired in December, lowering property tax bills 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That bond levy, which paid for remodeling of Friday Harbor Middle and High schools, is not being renewed.
The school district M&O levy requires simple majority. The EMS levy requires 60 percent approval.
EMS Chief Jim Cole expressed hope that people have read the information and understand that the levy is not for the existing Inter Island Medical Center or the proposed Peace Island Medical Center, but for emergency medical services provided by his agency.
“San Juan Island EMS is under the San Juan County Hospital District No. 1, which is the junior taxing district that operates both San Juan Island EMS and the Inter Island Medical Center under two separate levies,” supporters wrote in a letter. “Both agencies report to the hospital district board but are operationally and fiscally separate."
Cole said that if the levy is not approved, there is one more chance to put it on the ballot in November. If it fails then as well, emergency services would stop on the island, effective in 2011.
"We are very hopeful it will go through," he said. "We are hoping it all works."
Visit SanJuanJournal.com after 8 p.m. for complete election coverage and results.