In a disappointing defeat for the Central Valley School District, too few voters appeared willing to boost their taxes to alleviate school crowding.
The $52 million construction bond won popular support but failed to capture the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass. With only late-arriving ballots left to count, the measure received just 56 percent approval, according to unofficial election results released Tuesday.
Despite Central Valley’s failure, ballots from the first all-mail election in Spokane County showed most voters willing to open their pocket books in support of schools. Out of 21 school district measures on the ballot, 15 appeared to be passing.
Central Valley’s construction bond was needed to help alleviate growing pains in the east end of the 80-square-mile district, where schools are near or over capacity.
The district has seen enrollment jump 3 percent the past two years, after a decade or more of a gradual 1 percent per year increase in the student population.
Bond proceeds would have paid for a new elementary school at Mission Avenue and Holl Road, in an area recently annexed into the city of Liberty Lake, where support for the bond was strong.
Results show that 60 percent or more of the voters in Liberty Lake voted yes.
“It’s up to the school board, to decide whether we will re-run the bond at this point or not,” said Melanie Rose, district spokeswoman. The school board can decide to put the measure on the ballot again in April, she said.
“If we don’t, we’ll have to address the crowding in our district in other ways,” Rose said. “And one of those ways is to bus students to schools that have capacity.”
In the West Valley School District, the maintenance and operations levy appeared headed for defeat, with 59 percent of the vote. With more ballots left to count, district officials were hoping the numbers would change in their favor.
“Obviously we’re hoping that our supportive voters voted toward the end, and those are still the ones to be counted,” said West Valley Superintendent Polly Crowley. “If it doesn’t pass then of course we’ll try it again,” likely in May.
“The M and O is really the bread and butter for us,” Crowley said. “We’re kind of waiting, holding our breath.” The levy makes up 20 percent of the district’s operating budget and would provide about $6.7 million in 2007 and $7.1 million in 2009.
The district’s technology levy appeared to be passing, with 62 percent of the vote.
Both Central Valley and the East Valley School District’s maintenance and operations levies were passing. Central Valley’s, passing with 63 percent of the vote, will generate about $53 million over three years, beginning in 2007. East Valley’s would generate more than $18 million over the next three years. Both replace expiring levies.
Elsewhere in Spokane County, the Mead School District failed to gather the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass its first technology levy. Just 59 percent of the voters supported the measure. The district’s maintenance and operations levy was getting a green light, however, with 62 percent of the vote.
District officials said they would wait for final results before acknowledging defeat.
“There will be more ballots cast, so it’s not over until it’s over,” said Interim Superintendent Al Swanson. “Typically our experience is whenever there are two tax propositions on the ballot, it tends to lower the percentage the yes votes.”
Spokane County’s largest school district was breathing a sigh of relief with early results showing the district’s maintenance and operations levy passing overwhelmingly with 66 percent of the vote.
“I think we were all a little nervous with this all-mail election,” said Mark Anderson, assistant superintendent for school support services. “I think we worried about whether we were able to get out and make sure voters understood what they were voting on by the time they got their ballot.”
Despite concerns, voters turned out in record numbers. About 52,000 Spokane Public Schools voters had cast their ballot, compared with the previous record of 47,000 in 2003, Anderson said.
Here’s a look at unofficial results in other regional school levy elections:
“Cheney School District enjoyed a 66 percent margin of victory from voters approving a maintenance and operations levy, and a slightly higher margin for a separate measure to replace aging buses.
“Medical Lake School District won the support of 70 percent of its voters for a three-year maintenance and operations levy.
“Great Northern School District, west of Spokane and north of Airway Heights, approved a two-year levy that will raise about $135,000 a year for 42-student district.
“Riverside School District voters said yes to a three-year replacement levy, with 61 percent of the votes.
“Liberty School District, in south Spokane County, won support for its three-year levy with 65 percent of the votes.
“A facility improvement bond in the Nine Mile School District failed to get 60 percent supermajority, with 59 percent of voters supporting the measure. Voters in Spokane County propelled the rejection, while the district’s voters in Stevens County overwhelmingly supported it. The district’s maintenance operations levy was passing with 67 percent.
“The Deer Park School District, which also lies in both Spokane and Stevens counties, won a three-year operating levy passed with 63 percent support.