February 5, 1998 in Nation/World

Voters Let Good Times Roll For School Districts Bonds And Levies Win Strong Support

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Could be a strong economy. Could be good campaigning. Even President Clinton’s school-boosting State of the Union address may have helped.

Whatever the reasons, Spokane County taxpayers agreed with gusto Tuesday to spend millions of dollars on bonds and levies in several school districts.

Spokane School District 81 educators, still smarting from a rejected tax for computers four years ago, drummed up a 78 percent “yes” vote for the district’s largest bond ever.

And Liberty School District in southern Spokane County passed a bond after eight failed attempts in four years.

Parents and educators from Central Valley to Freeman to Cheney joined in the celebrations Tuesday night, joyfully repeating some form of the refrain, “People really do believe education is important.”

So does this mean voters believed education was less important when they rejected those other bonds? Why were districts more successful this time, especially in a climate in which passing bonds is no piece of cake?

“Passing a bond is tricky anymore,” said Lorraine Wilson, assistant executive director of the Washington State School Directors Association. “Often, (districts) can’t pass one until they’ve done double-shifting or tons and tons of portables.”

Wilson was amazed by District 81’s results of about 80 percent for both its $74.5 million bond and a routine maintenance and operation levy.

“Wow, that is truly remarkable,” she said.

An analysis of Tuesday night’s vote shows the bond issue and levy were successes citywide.

Some of the biggest majorities - yes votes that totaled 90 percent or better - were reported in precincts close to Lewis and Clark High School, but those were nearly matched in other areas where families send students to other high schools.

Only four scattered precincts failed to give the bond issue its needed 60 percent majority.

The levy generally collected a few more yes votes in each precinct. Only a single precinct, on the northeast tip of the city, failed to muster the 60 percent majority needed to approve the maintenance and operation levy. The 28 voters who went to the polls in that precinct split evenly on the proposal.

Forty precincts within the district’s boundaries turned in majorities of 90 percent or better for the levy.

Levies typically pass easily, but it’s been 20 years since the district got a higher approval rate for a bond, said District 81 planning director Ned Hammond.

He attributes it partly to different strategies.

“This time and last time aren’t comparable,” said Hammond, referring to the computer bond that failed four years ago. “Last time was just technology, and this was a totally different approach.”

This time, the money for about 4,000 computers was cushioned with other projects. Plans called for the remodeling of Lewis and Clark High School, a new Browne Elementary School in north Spokane, and assorted other projects scattered across town.

“I think the economy has something to do with it,” said Skip Bonucelli, spokesman for Central Valley School District. Two levies passed there Tuesday: one with 75 percent support; the other with 78 percent.

“Right now, Spokane seems to be doing pretty well economically,” Bonucelli said.

Others said Clinton’s recent support of schools - including computers in classrooms - probably lingered in voters’ minds.

But in Liberty School District, a woman who campaigned for several unsuccessful bonds said the long-awaited victory has absolutely nothing to do with the economy or Clinton.

Bond proponents simply asked for less money this time. “We cut the bond almost in half,” said Heather Greene-Beloit.

Sixty-two percent of voters approved Liberty’s $3.1 million bond issue.

“Instead of upgrading the high school, junior high and elementary school, we ended up making improvements to the high school, and sewer and water only.

“It’s a Band-Aid if you will, an expensive Band-Aid. It’s a temporary fix to what most of us think is a very permanent problem,” she said.

Now that money for various projects is guaranteed, Spokane County districts are starting intense planning. District 81 will begin selecting engineers and architects, who’ll help decide specific timelines for building and remodeling.

The biggest project, the renovation of 86-year-old Lewis and Clark High, is expected to go to bid in July 1999 and be completed by 2001.

The new Browne Elementary will probably go to bid in July 1999, with construction finished by July 2000, said Hammond.

Staff writer Jim Camden contributed to this report.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SCHOOL ELECTIONS All Spokane County school districts passed their bond issues and maintenance levies on Tuesday. Here are the unofficial results. Numbers will be validated Feb. 13.

DISTRICT 81 Levy Yes: 81.7 percent No: 18.2 percent

Bond Yes: 77.9 percent No: 22 percent

NINE MILE FALLS Levy Yes: 77.7 percent No: 22.3 percent

MEDICAL LAKE Levy Yes: 78.3 percent No: 21.6 percent

CENTRAL VALLEY Special levy Yes: 75.5 percent No: 24.4 percent

Levy Yes: 78 percent No: 21.9 percent

FREEMAN Bond Yes: 62.7 percent No: 37.2 percent

Levy Yes: 71.7 percent No: 28.2 percent

CHENEY Special levy Yes: 70.1 percent No: 29.8 percent

Levy Yes: 75.5 percent No: 24.4 percent

EAST VALLEY Levy Yes: 72.9 percent No: 27 percent

LIBERTY Bond Yes: 62.5 percent No: 37.4 percent

Levy Yes: 72.1 percent No: 27.8 percent

WEST VALLEY Special levy Yes: 66.5 percent No: 33.4 percent

Levy Yes: 73.1 percent No: 26.8 percent

DEER PARK Levy Yes: 72.2 percent No: 27.8 percent

RIVERSIDE Bond Yes: 62.9 percent No: 37 percent

Levy Yes: 68.2 percent No: 31.7 percent

This sidebar appeared with the story: SCHOOL ELECTIONS All Spokane County school districts passed their bond issues and maintenance levies on Tuesday. Here are the unofficial results. Numbers will be validated Feb. 13.

DISTRICT 81 Levy Yes: 81.7 percent No: 18.2 percent

Bond Yes: 77.9 percent No: 22 percent

NINE MILE FALLS Levy Yes: 77.7 percent No: 22.3 percent

MEDICAL LAKE Levy Yes: 78.3 percent No: 21.6 percent

CENTRAL VALLEY Special levy Yes: 75.5 percent No: 24.4 percent

Levy Yes: 78 percent No: 21.9 percent

FREEMAN Bond Yes: 62.7 percent No: 37.2 percent

Levy Yes: 71.7 percent No: 28.2 percent

CHENEY Special levy Yes: 70.1 percent No: 29.8 percent

Levy Yes: 75.5 percent No: 24.4 percent

EAST VALLEY Levy Yes: 72.9 percent No: 27 percent

LIBERTY Bond Yes: 62.5 percent No: 37.4 percent

Levy Yes: 72.1 percent No: 27.8 percent

WEST VALLEY Special levy Yes: 66.5 percent No: 33.4 percent

Levy Yes: 73.1 percent No: 26.8 percent

DEER PARK Levy Yes: 72.2 percent No: 27.8 percent

RIVERSIDE Bond Yes: 62.9 percent No: 37 percent

Levy Yes: 68.2 percent No: 31.7 percent


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