Once again, Spokane voters have given an emphatic “yes” to public education.
A landmark $495 million construction bond for Spokane Public Schools is cruising to victory, receiving almost 67 percent of the votes that were counted and released Tuesday night.
With the bond needing 60 percent for approval, district officials appeared a bit nervous before results were announced.
But when the numbers came in, cheers filled O’Doherty’s Irish Grill.
“I am just very thrilled with the numbers,” Superintendent Shelley Redinger said. “We’re just really excited about the work that lies ahead and helping our school system become stronger.”
Tuesday’s tally was 36,113, or 66.9 percent, in favor.
“I appreciate the community showing their support,” Redinger said.
The product of a unique partnership with the city of Spokane, it will change the face of education for 30,000 students by easing overcrowding in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, and moving sixth-graders into middle schools.
To accomplish that, the district would build three new middle schools while replacing three others – Glover, Shaw and Sacajawea.
It also would add a cafeteria/commons building next to Lewis and Clark High School at a cost of $18 million, make additions at the Libby Center and On Track Academy, replace Joe Albi Stadium and fund other improvements throughout the district.
It will cost 98 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation from 2019 through 2024.
And because property tax rates are scheduled to decline by $2.20 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2019, taxpayers will still see a net $1.22 per $1,000 reduction in taxes.
The bond includes $31 million for a new 5,000-seat stadium, which will be either on the current Albi site or downtown just east of Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. That decision will ultimately fall to the school board. The city placed an advisory vote on the ballot that asked where voters would prefer to locate the new stadium.
As of Tuesday night, voters said by a 2-to-1 margin to build a new stadium on the existing site of Joe Albi Stadium. The tally was 65.2 percent in favor of the Albi site and 34.8 percent in favor of downtown.
The idea for the bond came during a school district workshop in May, when Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson presented a series of scenarios that would allow the district to take advantage of the landmark McCleary decision that places the tax burden for basic education back on the state.
The biggest piece of the bond – about $360 million – will be the six middle schools. The bond would put two of those new middle schools on city land, one near Mullan Road Elementary School and another in northeast Spokane on North Foothills Drive.
A third middle school will be on land occupied by Albi Stadium – whether or not the stadium will be demolished or downsized.
Three existing middle schools dating from the 1950s – Glover, Shaw and Sacajawea – would be replaced near existing sites.
“A chicken in every pot,” Anderson called it.
Spokane voters have given strong support to school bonds and levies.
In 2015, voters passed a $145 million bond with a 69.5 percent “yes” vote. The margin was closer in 2009, when a $288 million bond received 62.7 percent approval.
The construction work is evident throughout the city with renovated high schools and new elementary schools.
The bond’s prospects could have been affected by several factors, including a projected high turnout for national midterm elections, the sheer size of the bond and the inclusion of the stadium in the bond.