February 9, 2011 in City

School requests failing in 2 Spokane districts

Proposals sought to extend existing bonds, levies
From Staff Reports
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Joy Smith, third from right, and Jennifer Small, right, react to Superintendent Ben Small announcing that the Central Valley School District’s bond was defeated Tuesday evening at Mirabeau Park Hotel, where supporters gathered to await the results of the election.
(Full-size photo)

Spokane County voters repeated their “no taxes” message from November, rejecting the two largest school funding requests in Tuesday’s special election. Central Valley and Mead school districts saw tax requests heading to failure Tuesday, while voters in the Newport and and Reardan-Edwall school districts appeared to be supporting levies.

Passage of the proposed bonds and levies initially looked promising, officials said, because the propositions on the ballot were continued taxes; property owners would pay the same or slightly more per $1,000 assessed value.

“Definitely, there’s a feeling of surprise,” said Melanie Rose, a Central Valley spokeswoman. “Surprise, shock and, of course, disappointment.”

Central Valley School District’s construction bond included a new elementary school, renovation and expansion of Evergreen Middle School, modernization and renovation of Opportunity, Ponderosa, Greenacres and Chester elementary schools and a districtwide security upgrade.

Voters came out against the bond, with 54 percent saying no and 46 percent for it as of Tuesday night.

The school buildings were built in the late 1960s to late ’70s, officials said. Those high-use facilities have grown old.

“The building will continue to age,” Rose said. “The students’ safety will continue to be compromised. It’s disappointing the community didn’t support these bonds, didn’t support our schools.”

The $69.6 million bond would have cost taxpayers $2.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2012, 65 cents more than they are currently paying.

Mead School District’s $59 million bond would have modernized Midway and Shiloh Hills elementary schools and Northwood Middle School and acquired property for future school sites.

Tuesday night, 51 percent were voting against the plan, while 48 percent approved it.

The current rate of $2.20 per $1,000 assessed value would have remained the same had the bond passed, Mead officials said.

The last time a bond failed in the Mead district was 1973.

The district’s Facilities Planning Commission members put the bond package together and it will be up to them to re-evaluate the bond and decide if and when to rerun it, said Mead Superintendent Tom Rockefeller. He said they will likely wait a few years to rerun the bond.

“It’s evident the issue with taxes and the issue with the economy right now are there,” Rockefeller said.

Reardan-Edwall, a small district that straddles Spokane and Lincoln counties, asked voters to continue its $1.1 million levy with a 5 percent increase each year for the next four years.

As of Tuesday, it was passing with a 55.8 percent margin.

Athletic programs are 100 percent dependent on the levy, as well as Future Business Leaders of America, Future Farmers of America and other extracurricular activities, school officials said. The money also pays for four teachers.

The rate per $1,000 assessed value is $2.72 now, and will rise to $2.73 in 2012.

• The Newport School District, with residents in Spokane and Pend Oreille counties, asked voters to approve a three-year, $1.3 million replacement levy.

And voters said yes, with about 60 percent voting in favor as of Tuesday night.

The money pays for staff and programs, including music and arts, transportation from after-school activities, a teacher for the gifted program, two school counselors and nursing services.

It will cost $1.82 per $1,000 assessed value in 2012 then decrease over the subsequent two years.

This story contained errors and has been updated from the print edition.

Staff writers Jody Lawrence-Turner, Chelsea Bannach and Lisa Leinberger contributed to this report.

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