School levy campaign work begins

December 29, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Volunteers needed for phone banks, sign wavingVolunteers for Issaquah Schools is ramping up efforts to secure your vote for each of the Issaquah School District’s three levies on the Feb. 9 ballot.

They need at least 9,908 votes to pass the district’s levy package, which includes a $172.5 million maintenance and operations levy, a $1.7 transportation levy and a $40.4 million technology and critical repairs levy.

If approved, the three measures would supplement the district’s strapped budget with more than $212 million through 2014.

By law, school districts can’t campaign to pass school bonds or levies, because they use public funds from the state and federal government.

“The district can put together levy measures and spread factual information, but we must remain neutral in terms of influencing anyone’s voting decision,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen wrote in an e-mail.

That’s why the nonprofit organization Volunteers for Issaquah Schools was created.

VIS is organized “specifically so that it can advocate to pass our school levies,” Rasmussen wrote. “It is all volunteer run and relies on community donations to do its work.”

Donations come from local residents, PTSAs and even from teachers, Volunteers for Issaquah Schools co-chair Kelly Munn said.

The organization and the campaign is led by a steering committee made up of the district’s unions, PTA leaders, school board members (Suzanne Weaver serves as its treasurer) and other community groups.

“VIS is an all-volunteer organization comprised of people who are passionate about education and providing our students with the resources to be successful in school and life,” Alison Meryweather, co-chair for the organization, wrote in an e-mail.

All labor is done outside district business hours, Munn said.

The steering committee is responsible for developing campaign messages, giving presentations to residents and city groups, developing newsletters and publicity, sending mailings, raising funds, helping people register to vote and recruiting volunteers.

VIS is in good shape monetarily, but they do need extra hands to get the message out, she said.

“To ensure success, we need about 10,000 ballots with yes votes on all three levy requests,” Meryweather wrote. “We estimate that only 35 percent of the district has a student in K through 12, so we need communitywide support.

“VIS welcomes all volunteers,” she added. “The more the merrier.”

Organizers need residents to help with a calling bank from 5-8 p.m. Jan. 13 and 14.

They also need people to stand at street corners of busy intersections with signs, and people willing to talk to neighbors, friends and family about why the levies are crucial to district funding. Volunteers are needed Jan. 22 and Feb. 8.

“To get involved, all one needs to do is contact one of the co-chairs or the VIS representative at their school,” Meryweather wrote. You can also go online.

People need to vote, Munn said.

“It is an easy way for the community to be involved and an easy way for individuals to take part in their local community,” she said. “Even if it is a no vote, we believe that is important, too.”

The election and you

Ballots are expected to arrive in mailboxes Jan. 19. They must be postmarked by Feb. 9 to count. If you’re not a registered voter, you can register until Jan. 11. You must be a legal resident of Washington state, and at least 18 years old by Feb. 9. Go to www.kingcounty.gov/elections/ registration.

Web resources

Levies in depth

www.issaquah.wednet.edu/ district/levy

Volunteers for Issaquah Schools

www.visvote.org

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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