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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County school, fire tax proposals mostly passing

Voters in the Spokane area mostly approved fire and school tax proposals in Tuesday’s special election.

Although voters rejected a bond in the Orchard Prairie School District, measures in East Valley, Liberty and Great Northern school districts were passing after Tuesday’s count.

Even the Reardan-Edwall School District, which is split between Spokane and Lincoln counties, passed a bond – the first in numerous tries since the 1970s.

“I’m feeling pretty darn excited,” said Reardan-Edwall Superintendent Marcus Morgan.

Strong support from Lincoln County voters pushed the proposal over the necessary 60 percent approval. The $10.9 million bond will fund renovation of the district’s 1954 elementary school and 1960s-era gymnasium. Most classrooms only have two outlets, and the heating and cooling systems are outdated, Morgan said.

Construction will likely start the summer of 2017.

Spokane County voters backed the measure by nearly 56 percent, compared with Lincoln County’s 74 percent backing.

In 2014, when the bond ran twice, it received around 55 percent approval.

The bond is expected to cost taxpayers $1.57 per $1,000 assessed value. There are 550 students in the district.

The Liberty School District in southern Spokane County was just barely passing its bond on Tuesday night.

More ballots will be counted in the coming days. This is the district’s second attempt; its first garnered 57 percent support in November. This time around, the district asked for $12.2 million – about $1 million less.

“I think more people were aware this time than in the fall,” said Superintendent Kyle Rydell. “I think the efforts of our outreach have put us in a much better position.”

The bond would pay for renovations to the 1960s-era high school building, build a new gymnasium, renovate bathrooms and locker rooms, and install wireless Internet. The bond would also support security updates in the elementary and junior high schools.

Rydell said if the numbers hold, the district likely will start construction in the fall.

The bond is expected to cost taxpayers $1.83 per $1,000 assessed property value. There are 430 students in the district.

As of Tuesday night, the Orchard Prairie School District was failing to pass its bond. It’s the second time in two years the small district located northeast of Spokane failed to pass a $1.5 million bond.

“There will be a lot of people who will be disappointed,” said Superintendent Howard King. “It’s not what we want, it’s what we need.”

The bond would have gone to building a multipurpose building, renovating a 1970s-era building and improving campus security. There are 80 students in the district.

“But we will certainly continue and do the best we can,” King said.

Both the East Valley School District and the Great Northern School District passed their maintenance and operation levies by a healthy margin, Tuesday night.

The $12.4 million East Valley levy will cost taxpayers an estimated $4.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value, a 4-cent decrease from the expiring 2012 levy.

The $200,000 Great Northern levy will cost taxpayers an estimated $2.05 per $1,000 assessed value. There are 45-50 students in the district.

Fire districts votes

After failing by 28 votes in November, the Stevens County Fire District 1 construction bond was passing Tuesday.

“It’s kind of a relief,” said Fire Chief Mike Bucy. “A lot of work goes into this.”

The bond was missing from an undetermined number of ballots in November. The bond required a 60 percent super majority to pass and had more than 63 percent approval after Tuesday’s count.

Though the measure appears likely to pass, there was still a problem with missing ballots, Bucy said.

“There were a few people that contacted us that did not receive their ballots,” he said. “Most of them got replacement ballots. It was sporadic, not nearly what it was before.”

If support holds, the bond will pay for new fire stations in Loon Lake and Suncrest that will become operational hubs, allowing for the addition of 24/7 volunteer staffing and ambulances on site.

Voters strongly backed a Spokane County Fire District 9 measure, which is expected to raise about $7 million per year, and provides 60 percent of the district’s annual budget, said Chris Hamp, division chief for administrative services. The other 40 percent comes from a different levy.

“We’re a little overwhelmed because that’s the highest percentage we’ve ever had in the fire district,” said Michael Atwood, chair of the board of commissioners.“We just appreciate the fact that the voters have acknowledged our services and our intention is to continue to do better.”

The district stretches across the northern borders of Spokane and Spokane Valley and has nine stations staffed by a mix of paid and volunteer firefighters. The maintenance and operations levy covers the paid staff and advanced life support services, including paramedics.

Nina Culver contributed to this report.

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